* This blog post was written by Helen Barnard of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation *
I have spent a good part of the last couple of years developing a new programme for JRF, focusing on the relationship between poverty and ethnicity. It's been fascinating and lots of people have been incredibly generous with their time and expertise. It has also been very challenging: the area is extremely broad, tensions often run high, language is vital and issues tend to become more and more complex the further you examine them.
Research so far shows that the poverty and ethnicity are linked: the differences in poverty rates across different ethnic groups is one clear indicator of that: 17% for white British people, 23% for Indian people, 24% for black Caribbean people, 25% for people from Chinese or 'other' backgrounds and 52% for Pakistani and Bangladeshi people.
There are also big differences in employment rates, pay, education and caring responsibilities. However, here things become more complicated. The simple story of people from all ethnic minority backgrounds having uniformly worse outcomes than people from white British backgrounds doesn't hold. Two key areas are work and education; in both of these the evidence so far shows some interesting and complex patterns.
In the workplace, research has demonstrated very clearly that there is discrimination in recruitment against people with names that do not appear to be white British. This tends to be more common in the private sector and smaller employers than in the public sector and larger employers. However, discrimination does not explain all of the differences in employment rates, nor levels of in-work poverty across different ethnic groups. Part- time work and self employment are more common among some ethnic groups, as is working in particular types of sectors â all of which affect pay. Pakistani, Bangladeshi and black people are also paid less on average than those with similar qualifications from either white British or Indian backgrounds. All of these patterns are affected by the decisions that people make, where they live, and the social networks they have.
In education, when children start school, those from Indian, Chinese and Bangladeshi back grounds tend to be behind those from white British backgrounds. However, this changes over time so that Indian and Chinese pupils end primary school with the highest attainment. In secondary school, young people from Traveller backgrounds have the lowest attainment overall, while white British boys from poor backgrounds make the least progress. However, recent analysis has highlighted variations across the country in results for children from the same ethnic and social backgrounds; another reminder of the dangers of making broad statements about ethnicity.
Some of you may have spotted an article in last weekâs Society Guardian highlighting concerns in the Gypsy and Traveller community regarding the new governmentâs housing policy. It highlights that the coalition has reversed policies intending to give incentives to councils to develop land for Gypsy and Traveller communities. As a result of this policy, the article states, all bids to fund new sites and refurbish existing ones across England and Wales have been cancelled.
Furthermore, the new communities secretary Eric Pickles has stated that he wants to revive elements of the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act â this may mean that trespass will be turned into a criminal offence rather than a civil one. This could have massive implications for the Gypsy and Traveller community as those who refuse to move from land that is not privately owned by them could be arrested by police or forcibly evicted. In addition, Pickles has previously announced his intention to scrap new rules giving Gypsies and Travellers a "level playing field" in planning disputes with local authorities.
Lib Dem MP Lorely Burt highlighted the issue of Gypsy and Traveller sites in parliament last week where she called for a debate on âhow local authorities can protect themselves from Gypsy and Traveller encampments riding roughshod over planning law in green belt areasâ. However, she also stressed the need for a âfair system of proper provision of legal campsites for Gypsies and Travellersâ.Leader of the House George Young encouraged Burt to raise the issue in the forthcoming communities and local government oral questions, ensuring that this is an issue which will be on the parliamentary agenda for some time to comeâŚ
Westminster became a hotbed of discussion on race and equality issues throughout yesterdayâs parliamentary debates.
In an exchange about knife crime and police bureaucracy, police and criminal Justice minister, Nick Herbert said that the coalition government is dedicated to reducing âtime wasting bureaucracyâ and will make hospitals share non-confidential information with the police so that they can target stop-and-search in gun and knife crime hot spots.
This could have a significant impact on race equality, as ethnic minorities are often the target of stop and search investigations. However, it has not yet been made clear as to what âbureaucracyâ will be scrapped.
See our latest report Ethnic Profiling: The Use of âRaceâ in UK Law Enforcement for more on the effects stop and search has on the black and minority ethnic (BME) community.
The new coalition government introduced a raft of new legislation in yesterdayâs Queenâs Speech which promises to bring radical change to the country. Whilst the full details of the new legislation have not yet been published, below are some early thoughts on what it could mean for race equality.
Given the unequal attainment levels of different ethnic groups, the pupil premium included in the Education and Childrenâs Bill may have a positive impact on those BME children in lower attaining groups. However clarification will be needed on how the pupil premium will be allocated â will, for example, being a child from an ethnic group with the lowest attainment levels (such as Gypsy, Roma and Traveller groups, or Black Caribbean Children) result in receiving pupil premium funding? In addition, it is important that the amount allocated through the premium is enough as to act as a sufficient incentive for schools to accept them as pupils.
The slimming down of the curriculum could be a concern if citizenship classes and other multi-cultural initiatives are scrapped â however it is not yet clear whether this will be the case.
The emphasis on increasing patient choice in theÂ Health BillÂ may impact some BME people differently from other groups. Previous research by Runnymede on school choice found that BME parents find it difficult to exercise choice, and therefore downgrade their options prior to selecting schools. Further research would be needed to consider whether this would be the case in heath, but it is worth considering the school choice example
I recently noticed that Lib Dem peer Lord Avebury has written a letter to the Conservative Party regarding its policy on Gypsies and Travellers. The policy, outlined in a green paper earlier this year, states that the Tories will provide stronger enforcement powers to âtackle unauthorised development and illegal trespassâ.
In his letter, Avebury â an ardent campaigner on the rights of Gypsies and Travellers â argues that in its paper the party has expressed "no acknowledgement of the exclusion suffered by Gypsies and Travellers due to a national shortage of sites" and accuses their policy of being under-researched. He also argues that their stance will provoke community tensions in the run up to the election.
Criticism of the policy comes weeks after the government launched guidance encouraging local authorities to use ASBOs against Gypsies and Travellers. The Irish Traveller Movement in Britain wrote to the government criticizing the decision, a letter which was supported by Runnymede.
The government has todayÂ called on local councils to make use of ASBOs and other powers to tackle antisocial behaviour explicitly "associated with Gypsies and Travellers". In new guidance published today, the government states that perceptions that the communitiesÂ are treated differently from the rest of the population âdamages public confidence about fair treatment for allâ.
It isÂ worrying that the government has singled out an ethnic group in this way for differential treatment in relation to crime prevention measures. This is especially concerning given thatÂ Runnymede found in its 2006 report on ASBOs that there is currently noÂ systematicÂ ethnic monitoring of antisocial behaviour tools andÂ as a result, it isÂ impossibleÂ to tell whether these tools are being used in a discriminatory way.
It is also a concern that by portraying the Gypsy and Traveller communities as aÂ particular problem the government could potentially be legitimising a backlash against these groups.
A quick mention of a short debate which took place in the House of Lords yesterday on gypsies and travellers. Baroness Whitaker asked the government why they have decided not to extend security of tenure on gypsy and traveller sites to that available to other caravan dwellers. She also criticised the government for not prioritising the introduction of a statutory instrument on the matter ahead of the election. Elsewhere in the debate, the Lord Bishop of Ripon and Leeds argued that gypsies, travellers and roma are "almost invisible recipients of racial prejudice in this country", whilst Earl Cathcart accused the government of giving these communities "special treatment".
The Runnymede Blog
The RunnymedeÂ Blog is a space forÂ us to explore issues relevant to race and ethnicity.
We also seek toÂ provide updates of race equality-related issues within the Westminster village.
The blog is written by members of the Runnymede staff team or external contributors, where stated.
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