Black people, racism and human rights: Government Response to the Committee’s Eleventh Report of Session 2019–21

Fourth Special Report

The Joint Committee on Human Rights published its Eleventh Report of Session
2019–21, Black people, racism and human rights (HC 559/HL 165) on 11 November 2020. The Government response was received on 5 February 2021 and is appended below.

Also appended is the formal response of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (the ‘Commission’) received on 11 January 2021.

Appendix 1: Government Response

Introduction

The Government notes the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ (‘the Committee’) report on Black people, racism and human rights. While many challenges remain, the UK has made significant progress over the years in tackling racism. The Government made Manifesto commitments to tackle prejudice, racism and discrimination and is committed to making further progress.

As the report acknowledges, the Government has established the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (‘CRED’) to consider what disparities exist, what the drivers of any disparities are, and what more might be done. The work of the Commission focuses on what, based on the evidence, works to address disparities in education, employment, health and the criminal justice system. It also builds on the work of the Race Disparity Unit, whose data-driven approach to these issues has been in place since 2017 and continues to improve the breadth and quality of the information available about ethnic disparities.

The CRED will submit its findings to the Prime Minister in due course, along with recommendations for key actions for Government. It would therefore not be appropriate to pre-empt those findings here. In establishing the Commission, the Prime Minister said:

‘It is no use just saying that we have made huge progress in tackling racism. There is much more that we need to do; and we will.’

The Government has considered the recommendations and conclusions in the Committee’s report and has responded to each of these in turn. Where action to address the issues raised is already underway, the Government’s response provides details.

We thank the Committee for its report and look forward to continuing to work collectively to ensure the rights of individuals across the UK are protected.

Recommendation 1: The majority (over 75%) of Black people in the UK do not believe their human rights are equally protected compared to white people. This is a damning indictment of our society and must be addressed as a matter of the highest political priority. To this end, the Equality and Human Rights Commission must undertake to run an annual opinion survey on whether Black people feel their human rights are equally protected, so that issues can be identified, and progress checked. (Paragraph 23)

1.The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is an independent public body and is responding separately to this recommendation. However, in line with the 2018 Tailored Review of the EHRC and the 2019 inquiry into the enforcement of the Equality Act and the work of the EHRC by the Women and Equalities Select Committee, the Government is keen to see the EHRC making further progress on prioritising and delivering against its unique powers to enforce the Equality Act 2010, as opposed to a range of other activities which could be undertaken equally by Government or by other organisations. Streamlining the Commission’s priorities is important in order to maximise its effectiveness and impact, including on issues relating to race.

2.The Government is also conscious of the importance of rationalising any overlaps between the EHRC and other public bodies, in particular the CRED, whose remit includes considering detailed quantitative data and qualitative evidence in order to understand why disparities exist and what works and what does not (for more detail on the CRED please see the response to recommendation 6 below).

Recommendations 2–4 are for Parliament to consider. The Government has not therefore responded.

Recommendation 5: Commissioning reports and failing to implement them intensifies disaffection and lack of confidence in the Government on race issues. Government must implement the findings of previous reports that have been commissioned.
(Paragraph 35)

3.The Government acknowledges the importance of building and upholding trust and confidence on race issues. We take very seriously the findings of recent reports into racial inequalities and disparities.

4.However we would challenge any assertion of inaction, there has been substantial work undertaken to implement the findings and recommendations from these reports, which is summarised in the sections below. In particular, this response sets out the significant steps taken to implement the findings from the Lammy and Angiolini reviews, summarised in the responses to recommendations 10 and 12 respectively. As well as implementing the findings, work is underway to go above and beyond the recommendations made. This includes engaging with stakeholders to look at the root causes of issues that cause disparities.

5.It is also clear that despite implementing these recommendations, issues persist. This is why the CRED is looking at drivers of disparities in the round, as part of its remit, rather than individually as has been done with previous reviews.

Recommendation 6: The Government has established the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities which is expected to report before the end of 2020. Previous inquiries and work of the Race Disparity Unit have identified the problems and pointed to solutions; the focus of this new Commission must therefore not be further fact-finding but on taking action to reduce inequalities and secure Black people’s human rights. This should take the form of a comprehensive cross Government race equality strategy. (Paragraph 36)

6.The Commission for Race and Ethnic Disparities is carrying out a deeper examination of the causes of race and ethnic disparities and is seeking to establish what works to address them effectively. This work will form the basis of the Commission’s final report which will include evidence-based recommendations for key actions to address disparities in education, employment, health and the criminal justice system.

7.The Government agrees that the work of the CRED should be action-focused, although it also needs to be informed by rigorous analysis and data. As noted above, the Government is committed to tackle prejudice, racism and discrimination—and to improving the quality of data and evidence about the types of barriers faced by people from different backgrounds to help drive effective and lasting change.

Recommendation 7: The death rate for Black women in childbirth is five times higher than for white women. The NHS acknowledge and regret this disparity but have no target to end it. The Government must introduce a target to end the disparity in maternal mortality between Black women and white women. (Paragraph 45)

8.The Government acknowledges that there is a significant disparity in maternal mortality rates. While the UK is one of the safest places in the world to give birth and maternal deaths across all ethnicities are fortunately very rare, behind these tragic statistics there are devastating consequences for families and children, so it is vital to tackle this complex and concerning issue.

9.The Government is taking steps to address this issue. The Minister for Patient Safety, Suicide Prevention and Mental Health hosted a roundtable on maternal mortality rates for ethnic minority women in July 2020. She then co-hosted, with the Minister for Equalities, a further discussion on this issue in September. This event was attended by academics, midwife practitioners from regional trusts and public health experts to develop joint solutions to this issue.

10.In addition, the Department of Health and Social care, together with the NHS, have already set ambitious targets and actions to further improve outcomes in maternity services:

11.New maternity commitments were also set out in The NHS Long Term plan, published in January 2019 including:

12.The Government will continue to review progress in implementing these targets and delivering these commitments.

Recommendation 8: The impact of Covid-19 has only served to sharpen pre-existing inequalities for pregnant Black women. The Chief Midwifery Officer has formulated a four-point action plan to better support these women during the Covid-19 pandemic, which is very welcome. These actions must be implemented as a matter of urgency. (Paragraph 48)

13.As noted above, this is an issue the Government takes extremely seriously and agrees that the NHS should implement action urgently from its operationally independent position. National, regional and clinical network teams are providing considerable support to ensure full implementation of all four actions by every Local Maternity System in England. The NHS is monitoring the progress with the implementation of the four actions by Local Maternity Systems through regular assurance exercises.

14.We also revised guidance in December 2020 so that, further to a risk assessment, a woman can have access to support from a person of her choosing at all stages of her maternity journey. At the same time it is our priority to prevent and control Covid-19 infection and keep women and staff safe. Many trusts have already found creative solutions to overcome remaining challenges and they have maximised the support that pregnant women can receive throughout their pregnancy.

Recommendation 9: The lessons learned review proposed in our recent report on the human rights impact of Covid-19 measures, and any subsequent public inquiry must prioritise consideration of why Black people have experienced higher mortality from the virus. For example, it should examine decisions taken about the allocation of PPE when it became known that those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds were more at risk from the virus and look at how the employment and housing situations of Black people have made them more vulnerable. (Paragraph 52)

15.In response to the disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government commissioned Public Health England to conduct an epidemiological review to analyse how different factors can impact on people’s health outcomes from Covid-19. The report of this review, Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19,1 was published on 2 June 2020.

16.Following this, the Prime Minister asked the Minister for Equalities, Kemi Badenoch MP, to lead cross Government work to address the disparities highlighted by the review. The Terms of Reference for this work were published on GOV.UK on 4 June.2 This work involves reviewing the effectiveness and impact of current actions being undertaken by relevant Government departments to directly lessen disparities in infection and death rates of Covid-19 and commissioning further data, research and analysis to improve our understanding of the causes of these disparities.

17.On 22 October, the Minister for Equalities published her first quarterly report to the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary. The report concluded that a range of socioeconomic and geographical factors such as occupational exposure, population density, household composition, together with pre-existing health conditions contribute to the higher infection and mortality rates for ethnic minority groups. A part of the excess risk remains unexplained for some groups and work is underway to fill these gaps in the evidence base.

18.The report included an ambitious set of recommendations to ensure that our cross-Government response keeps ethnic minority people safe, including:

19.The Government’s response to the pandemic will continue to be driven by the latest evidence. What is starting to emerge is that the second wave is not impacting all ethnic minority groups in the same way as the first. For example the latest intensive care data shows that the proportion of people from Black ethnic backgrounds in intensive care with Covid-19 in the second wave has fallen notably since the first wave; but the percentage of Asian people in intensive care with Covid-19 in the second wave has slightly increased since the first wave. It is important that our response to the pandemic continues to be driven by the latest evidence.

20.Additionally, analysis commissioned by the Race Disparity Unit and published by Public Health England in December, looked at the relationship between pre-existing health conditions, Covid-19 and ethnicity in terms of diagnosis, deaths and survival rates. One of the key findings from this is that the Black African and Black Caribbean groups are at no greater risk of dying, once infected, than the White group.

21.The Committee also drew attention to the risks of Covid-19 for those living in multi-generational households. The Government is issuing guidance to help prevent transmission of Covid-19 within households, and will highlight this through a number of communications channels to reach those most at risk. It is also worth noting that research from the University of Cambridge suggests that people live in multigenerational households not only because of affordability, but also for reasons related to companionship and culture.

22.The Minister for Equalities will publish her second quarterly report in the coming weeks, as part of her year-long review.

Recommendation 10: We call for the recommendations from the Lammy Review to be implemented as a matter of priority. (Paragraph 61)

23.The then Conservative Government commissioned an opposition MP, David Lammy, to examine racial disparities in the Criminal Justice system. The Government has accepted 33 out of 35 of the Lammy Review recommendations and has consistently and openly reported against actions it committed to take.

Recommendation 11: The police must regularly poll Black people to find out their levels of confidence in the police to protect their human rights. They must publish the findings of this polling and use it to set a benchmark and a target to increase the confidence that Black people have in the police to protect their human rights. The police must also set a target to increase the number of Black police officers and publish the percentage of Black police officers in each force by seniority. (Paragraph 68)

24.The Government expects the police to respect and protect every citizen’s human rights, whatever their ethnicity. However it is also pertinent to note that confidence in police is not solely down to police themselves, but also other factors outside their control including media reporting, historical bias and use of statistics, which also have a significant effect on how people perceive policing.

25.It is for police forces to consider whether they wish to conduct further local polling on confidence, trust and fair treatment within their force area, in addition to the substantial polling on confidence in the police that already takes place at a national level.

26.The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) provides the best source of data on trends in public perceptions of the police. Confidence in local police in the year to 31 March 2020 among those from a Black background (64%) was lower than confidence among those from White, Asian and “Other” backgrounds. Confidence was highest among those from an Asian background (77%). There is wide variation between different groups. For example, confidence in the police amongst Black Africans was 69% compared to 54% for Black Caribbean (Crime Survey England & Wales, 2019/20).

27.Confidence in policing across all communities is vital to the success of the long-established system of policing by consent. HMICFRS’s regular all-force PEEL inspections assess how well forces understand the needs of, and engage with, their diverse communities. The Home Office recognises that confidence among some groups, including Black groups, is below the national average and that more needs to be done to improve trust in policing in these groups. That is why the Government is working hard to deliver the diverse police workforce that our communities need by coordinating efforts between Government and policing to not only attract more diverse candidates into policing, but to ensure it is a career where all recruits can thrive.

28.As part of the police uplift the Home Office now publishes data on the ethnicity of police officers on a quarterly basis. This shows data for the total workforce and new joiners in each force including specific data on the number of black officers.

29.The Government is clear that the 20,000 officer uplift is a once in a generation opportunity to support all forces to become more representative of the communities they serve. Sharing best practice, engagement with police associations, upskilling recruitment teams and enhanced data capture are just some of the efforts being made to improve police diversity and inclusion.

30.Some forces have chosen to set local targets to drive diverse recruitment forward. For example, the Metropolitan Police has set itself a target of recruiting 40% of its recruits from ethnic minority communities by 2022/23, the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner has set his force a target of recruiting 1,000 ethnic minority officers over the next three years and Leicestershire police is seeking to recruit 25% of recruits from an ethnic minority background. Whilst this is a decision made by Police and Crime Commissioners and Chief Constables, the Government is committed to supporting local force ambitions.

31.In addition, the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, established by the Prime Minister in July 2020, is also considering Crime and Policing as one of its priority areas. It has taken an evidence-led approach to its work, taking into account relevant reviews, and is due to report to the Prime Minister by the end of February 2021

Recommendation 12: Recommendations from the Angiolini Review referencing institutional racism, race or discrimination must be responded to and taken forward as a matter of urgency. (Paragraph 74)

32.The Independent Review of Deaths and Serious Incidents in Police Custody (“the Angiolini Review”) was published on 30 October 2017. The then Government published a response to this on the same day. The review made 110 recommendations across Government and the police. The majority of these recommendations have currently been delivered (65) and a further 20 recommendations delivered in part.

33.It is important to note that the Angiolini Review showed that White people make up 86% of those who died in police custody over the last five years prior to 2017, with 14 % from other ethnic backgrounds. This is in line with population shares but not with the shares of those arrested. The Review acknowledged that “the proportion of black people dying in police custody was lower than the proportion arrested for notifiable offences (6% and 8% respectively)”.

34.Using data from 1998/99–2008/093 the review states “a disproportionate number of people from BAME communities have died following the use of force”.4 Sixteen out of 333 deaths were classed by the IPCC as being “restraint-related”. Of the 16 “restraint-related” deaths, 12 people were White, three were Black and one was Asian. With such small numbers, no firm conclusion can easily be made as to whether there is a correlation between ethnicity and deaths caused by restraint. The post-mortem reports in all these deaths include restraint as a cause of death, however some of these deaths may have been down to several factors. It would have been for the coroner, as an independent judicial office holder, to determine the cause of death in each case. While the statistics presented are correct, they are somewhat dated, stemming from between 1998/99 to 2008/9.

35.Following recommendation 104 of the Review, the Home Office is working closely with the IOPC to examine how they can improve the presentation and accessibility of information regarding the relationship between ethnicity and restraint related deaths. Recent IOPC statistics for deaths in or following police custody5 include deaths where use of restraint, or other types of force, are present; however, restraint or force did not necessarily contribute to these deaths.

36.The Review also made nine recommendations specific to ethnicity: seven of these have been completed, one has been delivered in part and one is in progress. An update on progress in addressing recommendations was published in December 2018. The Government has committed to providing a further update in early 2021.

37.The majority of ethnicity recommendations were directed at the Home Office and the IOPC and work done in response includes:

38.The report of the Angiolini Review suggests ‘there is evidence of disproportionate deaths of BAME people in restraint related deaths’ and in response to Dame Elish’s restraint-related recommendations, the College of Policing (CoP) and National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) released a video, entitled ’60 Seconds to Save a Life’, which has helped officers to consider the risks of restraint and act quickly where there could be potential risks to health. NPCC and CoP have also embedded risk and best practice associated with restraint, positional asphyxia and acute behavioural disturbance in national police training through the National Personal Safety Manual an Authorised Professional Practice on Detention and Custody. The CoP have also published national evidence-based guidelines for policing on conflict management, including de-escalation and negotiations skills. The recent NPCC and CoP Officer and Staff Safety Review encouraged Chief Constables to implement these guidelines and support further trials.

39.Finally, many of the recommendations related to race are associated with improved training and this is continually evolving. There are likely to be further ways that training can be developed to address racial stereotyping and ensuring those who are conducting investigations are also aware of this. For example, the CoP has training to address the historical context of the relationship between policing and minority communities.

40.In addition, Michael Lockwood, Director General, Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), has responded separately to the JCHR’s report; therefore, any references to the five ethnicity-related recommendations directed to the IOPC are referenced in their response (and were referenced as part of their initial response to the review6).

Recommendation 13: The Government should give serious thought to establishing a Commissioner or Office of Article 2 compliance, to ensure that the correct processes are followed in cases requiring Article 2 ECHR investigations, without relying on bereaved families for ensuring appropriate follow-up. (Paragraph 75)

41.As the Government made clear in its response to the Angiolini Review, we do not consider that a new and distinct Commissioner or Office for Article 2 Compliance is the most effective means of driving compliance with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

42.Existing agencies have a role to play here and their collation and dissemination of learning in this area must be made more effective, rather than duplicating this function in a separate Office for Article 2 Compliance. Coroners, inspectorates, independent watchdogs (such as the IOPC) and the Ministerial Council on Deaths in Custody should work towards strengthening their collaboration in this regard, and the Government will lead conversations as to how this is best achieved.

43.Any death or serious injury during police custody or during or as a result of contact with the police must already be referred to the IOPC and such matters are investigated independently. As the IOPC’s own response to this report notes, it is empowered to make learning recommendations and, since 2014, the police are required to publish their responses. Since 2018, the IOPC has introduced a thematic, focussed approach to investigations, including one on race issues. The Government also wants to see closer working between the College of Policing and HMICFRS. The guidance on post-incident procedures, referred to in the IOPC’s response, was produced in discussion with the NPCC and the College.

44.The Ministerial Council on Deaths in Custody already exists as a means of coordinating policy, and disseminating learning for incidents of deaths in state custody in England and Wales. The Ministerial Council on Deaths in Custody began work in April 2009, and is jointly funded by the Ministry of Justice, Department of Health and the Home Office. Its purpose is ‘to bring about a continuing and sustained reduction in the number and rate of deaths in all forms of state custody in England and Wales’. The most recent Ministerial Board for Deaths in Custody discussed coroners’ Prevention of Future Death Reports, which are issued when a coroner believes operations or policies highlighted in an investigation inquest could be reviewed or changed to save lives in the future. Agencies will now work closely together to assess how cross-sector learning can be facilitated.

45.The IOPC has a concordat with HMICFRS and the College of Policing that ‘captures and formalises arrangements for collaborative working between our organisations’. They also work with other organisations to produce ‘Learning the Lessons’ bulletins each year. These are bulletins which use case studies from IOPC investigations to illustrate good practice and learning. IOPC and HMICFRS also share learning in relation to deaths in custody and related risk factors custody prior to custody inspections. This informs the focus of the inspection and also whether specific forces require more regular checks.

46.Paragraph 28A of Schedule 3 of the Police Reform Act 2002, which came into effect in October 2014 following amendments made through the Anti Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, strengthened the powers of the IOPC to issue formal learning recommendations to police forces which they are required to respond to. Policing bodies are required to respond to learning identified by the IOPC within 56 days of receipt of a recommendation. The recommendation and the response are required to be published on the IOPC website

Recommendation 14: We expect the Government to fulfil its promise to implement the recommendations from the Windrush Lessons Learned Review, in full, as a matter of urgency. Focus must be placed on securing the cultural changes needed to ensure that people are treated with humanity and not treated unfairly because of their race. (Paragraph 82)

47.The Home Secretary has apologised unreservedly to victims of the Windrush scandal and their families for the injustice, hardship and suffering they endured at the hands of successive Governments over several decades. The Government is determined to right the wrongs and ensure nothing like this happens again.

48.The Home Secretary accepted Wendy Williams’ Windrush Lessons Learned Review’s important findings and published a Comprehensive Improvement Plan in September setting out the work underway across the Home Office to deliver the lasting and meaningful change the Windrush generation deserve.

49.The Home Office is taking swift and decisive action to make amends and to build a better department. The department is working at pace to transform its culture, and the Home Secretary is leading an unprecedented programme of change to ensure the Home Office truly represents all the parts of the community it serves, putting people at the heart of the reforms the Home Office is making.

50.This includes carrying out a departmental wide culture assessment, designed to enable the department to understand the unwritten rules and assumptions that characterise the department’s culture. This assessment has now concluded, and the Home Office has worked with an external provider to analyse the results of the assessment, which will inform the design of future interventions. This programme of transformational culture change within the department is being sponsored by the Permanent Secretary.

51.The Home Office is already a very different place. The department is listening to community leaders and external organisations and acting on their feedback. The department is addressing issues that have built up over decades, and the full root and branch reforms will not happen overnight. The department will continue to listen and act carefully over the months and years ahead to build a Home Office fit for the future, one that serves every corner of society.

Recommendation 15: The Home Office urgently needs to rebuild trust with those communities affected by the Windrush scandal by fixing the compensation scheme, including by lowering the standard of proof for evidential requirements to “the balance of probabilities”; and ensuring that those affected receive the compensation that they are entitled to without further delay. (Paragraph 85)

52.The Home Office is working to ensure members of the Windrush generation are properly compensated for the losses and impacts they suffered. Since April 2019, the Windrush Compensation Scheme has paid or offered more than £8 million, with more than half of that offered in the six weeks since the scheme was overhauled in December. More offers are being made each week. The department publishes data on a monthly basis.7

53.The department is processing claims as quickly as possible. The first payment was made within four months of the scheme launching, and the department is making interim payments where parts of a claim can be resolved more easily than others.

54.However, while engaging with members of the generation and the cross-Government working group, it became clearer that the department needed to take immediate action to go further and faster. That is why the Home Secretary announced on Monday 14 December a system of improvements to the scheme. These include:

Provisional figures show that since the 15 December, the scheme has made offers worth more than £4.5 million. This is more than had been offered in the first 19 months of the scheme.

Recommendation 16: The Government must consult on the implementation of automatic voter registration as a means of increasing democratic participation among Black people and other ethnic minorities and reducing the registration gap between Black and white people. (Paragraph 90)

Recommendation 17: There is a perception among the Black community that the replacement of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has resulted in a weaker focus on race equality issues than was previously the case. There are currently no Black commissioners on the EHRC. This has left the Black community without a clear visible champion for their rights. At national level there is no organisation whose priority it is to champion race equality and lead the drive for progress. (Paragraph 100)

55.The EHRC was intentionally established under the last Labour Government by the current chair of the JCHR, with a broad remit, to enable it to take a cross-cutting approach to all the protected characteristics which make up equality law; the present Government does not dissent from that aspiration of its predecessor.

56.The Government rejects any idea that EHRC Board appointments should operate on some sort of quota system, or that the Board must in some way represent a microcosm of all the protected characteristics in the 2010 Act. Nonetheless, the Government recognises the importance of ensuring diverse leadership and that the views of different groups, including black people are properly represented on the EHRC Board. The EHRC’s board currently has a black commissioner in Lord Ribeiro as well as a diverse non-executive board, with almost one third of the commissioners (including the chair) from ethnic minority backgrounds. As such, the EHRC board is one of the most ethnically diverse of all arms-length bodies. This Government is committed to ensuring that diversity, including racial representation, continues to be at the forefront of any future public appointments campaigns.

Recommendation 18: For the EHRC to be, and be seen to be, an effective enforcer of Black people’s human rights: i) Black people must be represented at the top level of the organisation including as commissioners; ii) It must have adequate resources, to which end we urge the Government to consider restoring the Commission’s budget to previous levels; and iii) Government must harmonise the Commission’s human rights enforcement powers in line with its powers in relation to equality, so that it can undertake investigations where it is suspected that an organisation has breached the Human Rights Act and provide legal assistance to individuals in Human Rights Act cases. (Paragraph 101)

57.The response to the previous recommendation noted the position as it relates to the EHRC’s Board—which includes a black Commissioner—and key work areas. Senior staffing decisions, with any related diversity targets, are a matter for the EHRC itself 1—though again, we note strongly that the key here is diversity, not an approach based on quotas or pro-rata racial representation.

58.The Government remains of the view that the Commission’s budget is at adequate levels. £17.1m per year was identified in a 2012 budget review as the minimum amount required for the EHRC to discharge its full range of legislative functions. In some areas, for example production of Is Britain Fairer? reports under Section 12 of the Equality Act 2006, the EHRC continues to do more than its statutory duties require.

59.The EHRC already has a range of important human rights powers and duties. It is accredited at the United Nations with “A” status by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions. This means it fully meets the requirements to protect human rights in Great Britain including carrying out inquiries, where appropriate. The 2018 Tailored Review did not recommend that human rights enforcement powers were necessary for the EHRC; and argued that the EHRC should focus on resolving issues of effectiveness and impact.

60.The UK continues to have strong human rights protections within a comprehensive and well-established constitutional and legal system. The protections contained in our domestic legal framework mean that individuals can uphold their rights in a UK court, with legal aid available for cases that are within scope, and for those that aren’t funding may still be available through the Exceptional Case Funding scheme. In addition to this, the EHRC continues to have the power to provide legal assistance to victims of discrimination, which can include the provision of legal representation and assistance to individuals in cases with an equality and human rights element.

Recommendation 19: The UK has lacked capacity in this area since the Commission for Racial Equality was folded into the EHRC. The re-creation of a body along these lines must be considered as a matter of urgency. Such a body should also provide infrastructure to drive forward change at local level, fulfilling a similar role to that previously performed by the race equality councils that were set up in partnership with the Commission for Racial Equality. (Paragraph 102)

61.The Government does not agree that race should be treated differently from other protected characteristics in the Equality Act. The logic of this would appear to suggest that there is no reason for the EHRC to continue to operate, and that separate organisations should protect the interests of each protected characteristic. The Government has worked to ensure that complementary rather than replacement bodies should take forward race issues, working with and alongside the EHRC as necessary.

62.These include the CRED, whose work is detailed elsewhere in this response.

Recommendation 20: The Government should consider whether changes are required to equality legislation to make it more effective as a tool to enforce Black people’s human rights. This should include consideration of whether more focused and strategic specific duties under the public sector equality duty (PSED) are needed, as has previously been recommended by the Women and Equalities Committee. We support this and also suggest that particular consideration is given to the inclusion of a requirement for public authorities to take action to address identified racial inequalities. The EHRC must take a more proactive approach to ensuring that public bodies comply with the requirements of the PSED. (Paragraph 106)

63.The specific duties under the Equality Act 2010 are set out in regulations which vary across England, Scotland and Wales and were brought into effect from September 2011 onwards. The specific duties play an important role in underpinning the main Public Sector Equality Duty, focussing organisations’ efforts around equality objectives, and providing transparency through the publication of data. The system is intentionally designed to require organisations to set their own equality objectives, focussing on the issues of most relevance within their sectors.

64.The Government does not believe that it is necessary, or would be helpful, to introduce an additional requirement for public authorities to take action to address identified racial inequalities. The PSED already requires that due regard be given to identifying racial inequalities, and to the need to remove or minimise disadvantages suffered as a result of race. Furthermore, the Equality Act 2010 as a whole—and the PSED within it—work on the principle that all protected characteristics are equal and must be treated as such, as set out in the above response. Isolating a single protected characteristic for differential treatment would disrupt the balance of rights and protections, and consideration of a single characteristic in isolation would risk perverse outcomes disadvantaging other groups. The PSEDs requirement to give due regard to all protected characteristics is specifically designed to avoid these risks.

65.The EHRC has enforcement powers that allow it to assess a public body’s compliance with the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED). The Government supports the EHRC’s use of these powers to play a enforcement role. This was recently seen in its high-profile assessment of how and whether the Home Office complied with the PSED in developing, implementing and monitoring ‘hostile environment’ immigration policies.

Recommendation 21: The Office for Civil Society must consider what can be done to support the further development of independent Black-led voluntary and community sector organisations. (Paragraph 108)

66.The Office for Civil Society continues to engage with Black-led organisations through two key stakeholder groups: the Minister for Civil Society’s Ethnic Minority Roundtable and which shares and discusses the impact of Covid-19 on the community; and BAME VCSE Commissioning Taskforce chaired by the VCSE Crown Representative, Claire Dove CBE and Kunle Olulode MBE (Chief Executive of Voice4Change).

67.The Ethnic Minority Roundtable gives the Minster a regular channel to hear directly from BAME led organisations and those working with BAME communities. Its aim is to build networks and collaboration between different organisations within the BAME VCSE sector and the Government.

68.This aims to support the ethnic minority VCSE sector through improving access to Government contracts and grants.

69.The VCSE Crown Representative’s BAME VCSE Commissioning Task Force (“BAME Commissioning Taskforce”) supports the ethnic minority VCSE sector to sustainability through improving access to Government contracts and grants. It has met monthly from 15 July 2020 for an initial six months, at which point the progress and future of the group will be reviewed, however it is likely to be extended.

70.The Taskforce aims to support the ethnic minority VCSE sector to sustainability through improving access to Government contracts and grants. It is working to increase contract readiness in the sector and with public sector commissioners to improve access for ethnic minority VCSE organisations.

71.The Taskforce brings together representatives from the ethnic minority VCSE sector, the VCSE Crown Representative and officials from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, in addition to officials from other Government departments where appropriate.

Recommendation 22: While the work of the Race Disparity Audit was ground-breaking and very valuable in bringing together the available data, we are concerned that gaps in data collection and analysis remain and act as a barrier to the enforcement of Black people’s human rights. The race equality strategy we propose must have at its heart a cross-Government commitment to improved data collection on racial inequality.
(Paragraph 111)

72.The Race Disparity Unit (RDU) is committed to improving the quality of ethnicity data across Government—the RDU outlined its plans for improving the quality of ethnicity data and filling data gaps in its quality improvement plan8 published in April this year.

73.The specific data gaps highlighted in the report are for the Home Office and Ministry of Justice but the RDU can work with these departments to fill those gaps.




Published: 11 February 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement