May launches ‘race’ audit into public services

30 Aug 16

Prime minister Theresa May has launched an audit of public services to reveal racial disparities and to help end injustices that people experience, it was announced at the weekend.

May has ordered Whitehall departments to identify and publish information showing how outcomes differ for people of different racial backgrounds across a range of areas, such as health, education and employment.

One of the key aims will be to enable people to check how their race impacts on the way they are treated by public services, broken down by geographic location, income and gender. It will also provide government with data to allow it to improve poorly performing services.

Up to now, public services have not systematically gathered data for the purposes of racial comparison, and only on rare occasions has any information been transparently accessible.

It is hoped the audit will reveal geographical inequalities in services that affect people of some races more than others, such as white working class people who tend to live in small coastal towns, or black and minority ethnic communities in urban centres.

The prime minister said: “When I stood on the steps of Downing Street on my first day, I made clear that I believe in a United Kingdom by every definition – and that means the government I lead will stand up for you and your family against injustice and inequality.”

She said the audit would stretch across government and “highlight the differences in outcomes for people of different backgrounds, in every area from health to education, childcare to welfare, employment, skills and criminal justice.

“This audit will reveal difficult truths, but we should not be apologetic about shining a light on injustices as never before. It is only by doing so we can make this country work for everyone, not just a privileged few,” she added.

Recent statistics from the Equality and Human Rights Commission indicate that people from a black Caribbean background are three times more likely to be permanently excluded from school than their peers. A black woman is seven times more likely to be detained under mental health legislation than a white women.

Meanwhile, the employment rate for ethnic minorities is 10% lower than the national average.

The audit will be led by a new dedicated unit within the Cabinet Office, reporting to communities secretary Sajid Javid, and Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer. It is expected the first data will be published before summer 2017, and will be updated annually. 

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