Government rejects calls to develop cross-government race equality strategy
The Government is showing ongoing commitment to improving the quality of the data contained in its Race Disparity Audit but has rejected calls from the Women and Equalities Committee to develop a cross-government race equality strategy to act on the disparities which the data reveal.
Committee's work on the Race Disparity Audit
The Audit, launched in 2016 by the Prime Minister, examined racial disparities in provision of public services and across Government – with the intention of influencing policy to solve the problems found.
The initial findings can be seen on the Ethnicity Facts and Figures website.
The Committee’s report published in June 2018 welcomed the Audit as a ground-breaking initiative that allows ordinary people to access a range of data about ethnicity for the first time.
The Committee recommended clear and measurable plans for improving the robustness of the data and called for a cross-government race equality strategy led by the Cabinet Office.
Response from the Government
In its response the Government commits to:
- Improving the availability and presentation of different data sets
- Producing a publication schedule for further data sets, which is now available on the Ethnicity Facts and Figures website
- Producing a Quality Improvement Plan, to improve the quality and usability of existing data sets as they are added to the website.
Response from the Office for National Statistics
The response from the Office for National Statistics shows a commitment to using its standard setting role to improve quality and availability of ethnicity data, and sets out work beyond that recommended in the report, including:
- Recruiting a topic lead for ethnicity, identity, language and religion
- Plans to engage with Departments who are not using the current harmonised ethnic group question
- An audit of inequalities data, aiming to capture all relevant data including from non- governmental sources.
Rejection of Committee recommendations
However, the Government does not make concrete commitments on moving towards widespread adoption of 18 + 1 ethnicity categorisation; the Quality Improvement Plan is limited to existing data sets rather than improving all government data; and the Committee’s call for a cross departmental race equality strategy was rejected.
The EHRC commitment to dissemination of good practice falls short of the recommended guidance on how to use ethnicity data to assess compliance with the Public Sector Equality Duty.
Government's rejections are 'disappointing'
Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, Maria Miller MP, said:
“There are some commitments to be welcomed in the responses to our report.
Improving the Ethnicity Facts and Figures website together with the Quality Improvement Plan will go a long way to addressing our serious concerns about the consistency, robustness and presentation of the data.
However, it is disappointing that there is outright rejection of our call to develop a cross-departmental race equality strategy.
The Cabinet Office should get in the driving seat and ensure that each Department delivers on this. Without such leadership there remains little hope of achieving the Prime Minister’s ambition of achieving racial equality in our society.
The Committee will be asking the Government for regular updates on this work, and we will want to see evidence of both improved data and robust action on the disparities revealed by the Audit.”