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My response to the Sewell Race report

  • 01/04/2021
  • Author:Liam.Evans@turn2us.org.uk

Varun Kanish, Campaigns & Communications Manager

end racism protest

I was shocked and dismayed by the conclusions drawn in yesterday’s Sewell report published by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities.

Working as part of a national poverty charity – everyday, our team sees and seeks to address both the causes and the symptoms of financial hardship; experienced at alarmingly disproportionate levels by people of Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups (including Gypsy, Roma and traveller communities).

The experience of our service users and even of our staff team brings to stark, unsettling reality the on-going story of institutional racism. Economic inequality caused by racism is revealed so absolutely by our latest research and that of organisations across all sectors.

Contrary to the Commission’s report conclusions - without doubt, we know that racism still impacts communities across the UK and that structural racism is at the very root of the inequalities keenly felt in all aspects of society – from education, housing, healthcare to unemployment and the criminal justice system. Because of this charity’s research…

  • We know that while over a third of people from both Asian and Black ethnic backgrounds frequently run out of money (34%, 36%), only a fifth of people from white ethnic backgrounds experience frequently running out of money (21%).
  • We know that workers from black and ethnic minority groups are more likely to experience financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • We know that 58% of Black, Asian and minority ethnic workers have had their employment affected since the start of the covid pandemic, compared to 47% of White workers.
  • We know that people of Bangladeshi descent are most affected with 80% reporting a change in their employment circumstances, compared to 63% of Black African or Black British workers; 58% of those of Pakistani descent; and 55% of the UK’s Indian population.
  • We know that despite what the employment figures show, data also reveals how White ‘other’ (excludes White British) who have lost income are at greater risk of defaulting on their rent or mortgage (29%), closely followed by those of Pakistani (24%) or Bangladeshi origin (20%).

I am gobsmacked that the Commission chose to dismiss the findings of other public bodies and charities. Their cynical report discounts entirely the lived experiences of people of Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups, undermining the legacy and impact of those who have made a positive change throughout our shared history.

More dishearteningly, this report is a missed opportunity by government to formally acknowledge that systemic racism leads to more negative economic and wellbeing outcomes for people in affected communities.

Instead of charting a route to meaningful change for millions in our society, government has chosen to disavow itself of any responsibility and instead blame victims - claiming they are simply “haunted” by “historic cases of racism”. We should rightly be outraged and I’m hopeful that the charity sector shows solidarity with all that feel let down by this report.

The commission’s report is unjust, irresponsible and should only serve to strengthen collective resolve and moral obligation to challenge institutional racism in the UK.

As a member of our organisation’s passionate EDI committee, I can say with full confidence and shared determination that Turn2us will continue to work tirelessly to tackle critical issues around race and inclusion. Unlike the authors behind the Sewell report, we welcome questions, scrutiny, suggestions and are open to be challenged by all - especially people of colour.

From a place of compassion and of understanding, I urge the government to look more critically at themselves and at the structures of society that fail too many people and families around the country. If they don’t, as a society, we will be unable to create the necessary change that means everyone is able to thrive.

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