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Race Disparity Audit: Government must act now

Maria Miller

If the inequalities revealed in the Race Disparity Audit are to be tackled, Government departments must have clear and measurable plans for improving the consistency and robustness of the data and turning it into a set of cross-government priorities for action, says a new report from the Women and Equalities Committee. Contributor Maria Miller MP – Women and Equalities Committee.

The Audit, launched in 2016 by the Prime Minister, examined racial disparities in public services and across Government – with the intention of influencing policy to solve the problems found. The initial findings can be seen on the ground-breaking Ethnicity Facts and Figures website.

In its report published today, the Committee finds that the ability of the Audit to lead to tangible change is put at risk by a lack of consistency in how data is collected across Government. Some datasets are detailed but the categories used to collect information vary widely. This makes it difficult to analyse and reach conclusions on what action needs to be taken.

The report finds that without consistent information too many government departments will remain ignorant of the uncomfortable truths they are responsible for tackling. MPs conclude that urgent action is needed to improve the collection of ethnicity data. The Cabinet Office must build on its good work on the Audit by becoming the central driver in ensuring that each. Department delivers on its responsibilities. Only by doing this will the Prime Minister’s commitment to tackling injustice be realised.

 Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, Maria Miller MP, said: “We strongly commend the principle and sound intentions of the Race Disparity Audit. As the Prime Minister has said herself, it has helped expose many uncomfortable truths. However, the picture at present is that data collection across different areas of government and public services is inconsistent, not properly joined up and in some cases just isn’t happening. That isn’t good enough.

“We look forward to seeing the results of the ‘explain or change’ analysis that is being conducted by individual departments. But we need co-ordinated action, and it needs to come from the top. Ministers must review and build upon what they have started if their laudable aim of tackling injustice is to be realised.”

 Key recommendations: Efforts should be made to ensure that data is robust enough to be comparable, including over time and that regional variations can be seen. In future, the Government should consider including non-governmental sources of data.

The Government, led by the Cabinet Office, should adopt the same categories as are used in the Census as the minimum standard for data collection on ethnicity across Government departments to ensure this happens in all official data sets.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Office for National Statistics should work together to provide updated guidance for public bodies, service providers and employers on how to collect consistent ethnicity data and how public-sector bodies should use that data to assess their compliance with the Public Sector Equality Duty.

The Government produce an action plan to improve the consistency and robustness of the data it collects based on ethnicity, to be implemented within 12 months. In the longer term, the Government should ensure that key data can be disaggregated to allow factors such as gender, age, region, socio-economic status and religion and belief to be considered alongside race and ethnicity.

A cross-government race equality strategy should be developed. This strategy should formalise the role of the Cabinet Office and the inter-ministerial group in enforcement, co-ordination and oversight of Government departmental plans to close the disparities revealed in the Audit.

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