We like a guest post and today’s is one based on cold hard research.
The topic is one that local authorities have long struggled with; that of equalities or more precisely how we, as the council, can use our role to make a real difference to the lives of those who are disadvantaged or discriminated against. This post looks at what can be done beyond what they describe as the ‘standard 6’ actions we all know and recognise.
So, without further ado enjoy today’s post from Joy Warmington from Brap (@JWmusesthis on the twitter); it provides good food for thought.
Here’s a quick question for you. For every £100 that a man working in Birmingham earns, how much do you think a woman earns? Ninety five pounds? Ninety pounds? Maybe as low as £85?
We’ll reveal the answer at the end, so while you’re mulling that here’s another one. The unemployment rate for White people in Birmingham is about 9%. What’s the rate for Black people? If you doubled 9%, try again. The answer is actually three times higher – 26%. The unemployment rate for Pakistani and Bangladeshi residents is similarly out of kilter, currently standing at 18%. But here’s the really interesting thing. Back in 2004 the White unemployment rate was 6% while the Black rate was 18% – again three times higher. Over the course of a decade, despite all its strategies and plans, the city was unable to reduce this stark inequality.
Why is this? Well, it’s not just Birmingham that’s been asking these questions. A number of cities – from Plymouth to Sheffield to York – have held fairness commissions in recent years to understand why entrenched inequalities persist. As useful and, in some cases, penetrating as these commissions have been they have tended to ignore the nuts and bolts of how public agencies ‘do’ equality – how they go about tackling discrimination, eradicating social patterns of disadvantage, and fulfilling their legislative equalities duties. This is a serious gap. Understanding why these approaches have failed may go some way to explain why serious inequalities continue.
New research providing a bird’s eye view of equalities practice down the decades shows that many ideas have been resistant change. Whereas society has changed greatly over the last 30 years, our equalities tools have remained remarkably similar. For example, in 1984 Birmingham City Council set up a Race Equality Unit with the aim of addressing institutional racism and improving access to council services. By 1989 the Unit had 31 staff, including race relations advisers in housing, education, and social services. The Unit’s annual report for that year shows its activities included training, monitoring uptake of services, helping different departments devise race equality schemes, improving access to services (mainly by translating information), and organising outreach events. If you were to include something about community development (helping local community groups to support disadvantaged people) these activities would all be part of the Standard Six – the half a dozen key actions that have dominated equality strategies and policies over the decades. They’re the things that crop up time and time again, regardless of the organisation’s sector or the demographics of its service users. Ideally, equality approaches would be dynamic – constantly evolving as we better understand what works. Unfortunately, this generally hasn’t been the case.