Government goes beyond race inequality in post-Sewell plan

Is the Government failing BAME groups a year on from the discredited Sewell report?

Inclusive Britain, the Government’s response to last year’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED) has been released and seeks to counter negativity around race discussions as well as tackle race disparities.

This comes a year after the discredited Sewell report was released in 2021. Also known as the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, while it did admit that racism is in force in the UK, it concluded that systematic racism no longer exists.

With the Government’s new plan based on the prior report that caused so much controversy, responses are bound to be mixed. Below are some of the proposals the Government plans to report back to Parliament in a year.

Proposed anti-racism strategies

To tackle racial inequality, the new plan proposes changing the history curriculum for schools, providing advice to employers on measuring and reporting on ethnicity pay gaps, and stopping online racist abuse via new laws.

The plan also includes aims to prevent youth from entering a life of crime by using more “out of court disposals” to deal with first-time drug users. They also want to develop a national framework over the use of police powers, including stop and search measures.

Going beyond the race focus

The new plan seeks to open up the conversation on inequality beyond race. In the 97-page plan introduced by Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch, she said that lack of opportunity should not be seen “solely through the prism of ethnic minority disadvantage”, suggesting it will take a more diverse view of unequal opportunities.

She said: “We do not believe that any group is less intrinsically capable than any other – ability is spread across the population. But opportunity is not. Therefore, every action in the plan is crafted to deliver on our unwavering commitment to ensure that everyone in our society – no matter their background, gender, sexuality, creed or colour – has the opportunity to go as far in life as their ambition will take them.”

While the new plan credits the prior report’s focus on practical responses to equality disparities, whether based on race or other factors, Badenoch also commended its conclusions that “challenged the lazy consensus,” on race and equality debates, adding that they weren’t as controversial as people thought.

Battling racism – and a climate of pessimism

The new plan refers to the prior report, which acknowledged that many felt race relations and related opportunities weren’t improving, which they agree revealed a climate of pessimism around race topics in the country whilst other groups, including White working-class communities, were also feeling disenfranchised.

In particular, the first report dismissed the “accusatory tone of much of the current rhetoric on race, and the pessimism about what has been and what more can be achieved”.

In response, the new plan wants “to address that deficit of trust both by levelling up where opportunities are genuinely lacking and countering the pessimism that often prevails in debates about race in the UK.” The new strategy also addresses each of the prior report’s 24 recommendations under three themes; “building trust, promoting fairness and creating agency.”

Presumably, under the theme of fairness, the report wants the Government and public sector organisations to show impartially when discussing heated concepts around race and allow space for other voices to be heard.

“This means being willing to reinforce commonly shared values such as opposition to racism, but avoiding promoting explicitly political or partisan views in a way that might suggest bias in areas of genuine debate,” it read.

Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED) Chairman Tony Sewell said: “This is a major step towards a fairer, more open and more inclusive society and, importantly, focuses on the practical actions that will improve people’s lives. We all should throw our weight behind this strategy so we can build a better society for all.”

Taiwo Owatemi, Labour’s Shadow Women and Equalities Minister condemned the Government’s delayed response and its acceptance of the prior report: “The Sewell report completely failed to identify or tackle the root causes of racial disparities. It obviously cannot be relied upon to address these disparities, and yet the Government has unquestioningly accepted its findings.

“It’s disgraceful that we’ve had to wait almost a year for the Government’s response – and worse still that it agrees with the original report’s denial of structural racism.

“Boris Johnson’s Conservatives have once again failed to deliver meaningful action. In doing so, they have let down Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities.”

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