Approaches to race equality

Approaches to race equality

For some ethnic minorities there have been improved outcomes in areas such as housing, education and employment. However there is room for improvement: many Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities still face high levels of deprivation and discrimination relative to their ‘White British’ counterparts. 

The UK population is increasingly ethnically diverse which poses new challenges for achieving race equality. 

Institutional racism was defined as a result of the 1999 Stephen Lawrence Inquiry. This also saw rise to the Race Relations (Amendment) Act which introduced a duty on public authorities to promote race equality in addition to tackling discrimination. 

Recent Government approaches to race equality have seen a shift towards a single equalities approach with a focus on community cohesion and class inequalities.  Could you use this shift to widen your organisation's remit? Or might it threaten your funding? Read on for more thoughts on the implications of this trend for your organisation.

What are the implications?

Changes in ethnic and cultural diversity and public policy approaches have important implications for the way BME VCOs work. 

Race inequalities

  • Continuing race inequalities create a continuing need for BME VCOs.
  • Race inequalities may be made worse by current closures of BME VCOs if this leads to unmet needs.
  • Continuing inequalities may be masked if the government focuses just on progress made to date.

Outcomes for different BME communities

  • As some ethnic groups see improvements, for instance in employment rates, inequalities between different ethnic groups may increase.
  • Government may take a more nuanced approach to tackling race inequalities by targeting initiatives at specific ethnic minority groups rather than a taking a blanket approach to all BME communities.

New approaches

  • New approaches to race and ethnicity (the shift towards single equalities approach with a focus on community cohesion and class inequalities) makes future support for BME VCOs uncertain.  Organisations may need to reposition their work to attract funding.
  • The shift away from identifying institutional racism may make it harder to identify structural causes and responses to race inequality within organisations.
  • There may be an increased need for organisations to demonstrate the need to tackle race inequality.
  • There is a risk that race equality will be diluted by a single equalities approach. 
  • Fewer public authorities will produce a race equality strategy but will instead produce a single equality strategy.
  • The Single Equalities approach may provide opportunities for BME VCOs to consider how well their organisation promotes wider equalities.
  • BME VCOs may create pan-equalities alliances to deliver services and strengthen representation.
  • There may be greater opportunities for BME VCOs to tackle multiple discrimination such as working with BME disabled people.

Moving Forward

Raising awareness of inequality

  • Is race inequality recognised by decision makers in your area?  Can your organisation raise the profile of the importance of tackling race inequalities?
  • Are you able to demonstrate the need to tackle race inequalities?  Are race inequalities changing in your area as a result of external factors such as the economic downturn or new approaches to race equality?  How can you respond to this and raise awareness with key decision makers?  Can you demonstrate the positive difference this makes to cohesion?

Working with other VCOs

  • Can you work with generic VCOs to ensure they are aware of the continuing need to tackle race inequalities and discrimination?
  • Can you work with other equality groups to ensure the distinctiveness of different equality strands are recognised? And if not, can you identify the main barriers preventing you from working together with other equality groups?  How can they be overcome?

Who are your beneficiaries?

  • Do you effectively target different BME communities or do you have a blanket approach for all communities? Is this effective?  Does your constitution reflect the communities you serve or has this changed over time?
  • Have you thought about how you can work with the Single Equalities approach?  How can you ensure that your needs and the needs of the communities you serve are recognised?   Can a Human Rights approach further support your work?

If you need some guidance thinking through the options open to you, have a look at our pages on planning. You need to bear in mind some of the issues here and on our other drivers to feed into your planning.

You might also like to have a look at our Future Focus 5 publication which considers how social attitudes are changing, or Future Focus 6 which looks at how the UK population is changing and what this means for civil society organisations. And of course you can join for free to get our ebulletin which will help you think through all these elements to face the future with confidence.

Want to know more?

Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society: A third progress report

Published by: Communities and Local Government

Date: 2009  

Format: PDF

What is it? A report on Government’s progress on race equality including a statistical breakdown on key public services (including: education; the labour market; housing; health and the criminal justice system) and in building community cohesion.

John Denham - Government is committed to tackling inequality and disadvantage wherever it exists

Published by: Communites and Local Government

Date: 14 January 2010

Format: Website

What is it? Speech to launch Government’s approach to tackling race inequalities following the Tackling Race Inequalities consultation in 2009.

The Pied Piper: the BME third sector and UK race relationship policy

Published by: Brap, Afridi, A. and Warmington, J.

Date: 2009

Format: PDF

What is it? A book about the BME third sector, including its history, current challenges and future, detailing its relationship with the last 60 years of UK race relations policy.

Eliminating racism, are we there yet?  Reflections on the impact for the BME third sector of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry

Published by: Voice4Change England

Date: 2009

Format: PDF

What is it? Perspectives from key BME third sector leaders and funders on what the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry means for the BME third sector 10 years on, and what the future holds for race equality.

Ethnicity and poverty: What are the links between poverty and ethnicity?

Published by: Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Date: 2009

Format: Website

What is it? Details of a research programme to understand the underlying reasons for variations in low income and deprivation among different ethnic groups in the UK and the problems caused.  Includes links to other relevant research.

Last updated at 15:50 Thu 26/Aug/10.


How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

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