Warm words but very little action was the accusation levelled at the Government as it revealed less than half the measures set out in its plan to tackle racial inequality and level up communities have been delivered.
The Black Equity Organisation (BEO) said there must be an acceptance that structural racism exists and until then the Government will “continue to tinker around the edges” of the problem.
Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch announced that 32 of the 74 measures in the Inclusive Britain strategy published just over a year ago have been completed.
The 97-page plan was developed in response to a controversial 2021 report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (Cred).
Giving an update on its Inclusive Britain report, Ms Badenoch said “substantial progress” had been made with “good progress in delivering the remainder” of the actions set out last year.
In a written statement to the Commons, she said “particular highlights” included funding a national recruitment campaign to find more adoptive parents and improve adoption rates for ethnic minority children and an automatic “opt-in” trial for young people to get independent legal advice in police custody.
The Government has also published new guidance for employers on how to measure, report on and address any ethnicity pay gaps within their workforce.
There have previously been calls to make ethnicity pay reporting mandatory, but the guidance stops short of stating that firms must do so, saying that ethnicity pay reporting is “much more complex than gender pay reporting” as it can potentially involve multiple ethnic groups, depending on how ethnically diverse a workforce is.
The Government states that the guidance aims to “develop a consistent, methodological approach to ethnicity pay reporting, which can then lead to meaningful action, while remaining proportionate and without adding undue burdens on business”.
Ms Badenoch said: “The concrete actions we have delivered over the last year are improving people’s day-to-day lives, but I know that we need to do more to tackle disparities and build people’s trust in our great institutions.
“The ground-breaking Inclusive Britain Action Plan was an excellent first step, and we will continue to deliver on its promises, tackling the complex causes behind racial disparities with data-driven action.
“We must all work together to ensure no-one is held back by their race, social or ethnic background.”
But BEO chief executive Dr Wanda Wyporska said: “Black communities will be dismayed that despite the damning Casey report into institutional racism in the Met, and the De Souza report which found that black children were 11 times more likely to be strip-searched than their white peers, the response has been yet more warm words, but very little action.
“While frameworks are being set and surveys conducted, black and brown people continue to be over-policed and under-protected.
“The lack of urgency to tackle the structural racial issues across society, including in education, employment and the health system, blighting the lives of black and brown people, is staggering.”
Jemima Olchawski, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, described it as “disappointing to see how little progress has actually been made” and expressed disappointment also that ethnicity pay gap reporting was not being made mandatory.
She said: “Evidence shows us that black and minoritised women are all too often disadvantaged by systemic unfairness that holds them back throughout their lives.
“If we want to be a country where everyone can achieve their potential, to progress and make the most of their talents, then we need serious and concerted action to achieve this.”
Runnymede Trust chief executive Dr Halima Begum said: “The Inclusive Britain plan was a welcome de-escalation from the contrived rhetoric around race and the so-called culture wars, albeit defined by a lack of real ambition to tackle some of the most complex root causes of racial and institutionalised inequality in the UK.
“Issues like ethnicity pay gap reporting, for instance, have been called for by the Runnymede Trust and wider race equality sector for years now. While we welcome employers receiving some support to this end, we would expect it to be mandatory by now with the Government focused on the substantive measures required not to report but actually reduce the stark gaps we already know exist.”
Labour’s shadow women and equalities secretary Anneliese Dodds accused the Government of having “limited ambition” on the issue because “it thinks meeting less than half the targets in its half-baked plan to tackle racial injustice is worth celebrating”.