Joel Muckett 12 Oct 2017 10:25am

Mixed reaction to Theresa May's race audit

More than a year removed from its announcement, Theresa May’s long-awaited race disparity audit was released yesterday alongside the ‘Ethnicity Facts and Figures’ website

The new audit showed black and minority ethnic (BAME) groups were under-represented in senior levels of the public sector, had lower employment rates than white people and only made up 11% of apprentices.

It also revealed those of Indian origin were the most highly skilled compared to other BAME groups.

May outlined a commitment to tackle inequality in the nation, promising to “explain or change” disparities highlighted in the report.

She also promised the website, described as a “permanent resource”, would be regularly updated to show the government was “fully committed” to tackling racial inequality.

The response from business and employment groups was broadly positive but called for action.

London deputy mayor for Social Integration, Social Mobility and Community Engagement Matthew Ryder called the information from the audit “troubling” but said it was “familiar reading” for those who had followed inequality in Britain over a long period.

Ryder believed the government needed to accompany its commitment to “explain or change” disparities with actions in order to make a difference.

“At City Hall, we are committed to improving social integration and social mobility for all Londoners,” said Ryder.

“But too often the many voices – from community groups to large organisations – who have warned governments for years that their policies would have a disproportionately adverse impact on certain communities, have been side-lined, ignored or dismissed.

“They must now be listened to.”

Neil Carberry, managing director for people at the Confederation of British Industry, called the improvement of inclusion in the workplace a “shared challenge” for the government and businesses.

“Improving careers advice, supporting schools and establishing better paths to skilled work for people from all backgrounds is essential for government,” he said.

“For business, creating inclusive workplaces where employees feel welcome and able to fulfil their potential, regardless of ethnicity, is not only the right thing to do, it makes food business sense too as it boosts productivity.”

He added that it was “essential” for leaders and managers to take “concrete steps” in improving the opportunities available for people of all backgrounds.

Chief executive of Black Training and Enterprise Group (BTEG) Jeremy Crook OBE said the availability of the data would show everyone “from government departments to local communities” where resources needed to be directed.

“This important ethnicity data should not be denied or explained away but discussed in town hall cabinets, by police crime commissioners, youth offending teams, local job centres and ministers of state,” he said.

Despite being unsurprised, chair of the EHRC David Isaac said the prime minister should be “applauded” for the audit and called on the government to “tackle the significant racial disparities confirmed by the audit”.

“Britain needs a comprehensive and coherent race equality strategy with concrete actions in response to these findings,” he said.

Isaac’s comments come as the EHRC, in conjunction with other organisations including BTEG and BitC, released the “Roadmap to Equality” earlier this month.

The seven-part plan recommended employment, education, housing, health and criminal justice be addressed as “priority areas” to ensure progress in race equality.

Sandra Kerr OBE, race equality director at Business in the Community (BitC), supported the publication of the audit and said the transparency would enable a “better understanding” of challenges facing those from BAME groups.

Kerr added that tackling racial inequality was not something the government could do alone and called upon employers to help address inequality within their organisations.

“This could include monitoring BAME candidates’ progress through recruitment and progression processes to identify and remove any barriers, and providing unconscious bias training for all employees involved in recruitment or promotion decisions,” she said.

“By taking these steps, employers will be helping create the future we want and improve outcomes for everyone, regardless of ethnicity.”