Runnymede Trust: "Budget's racial disadvantage"


Yesterday, the leading race equality think tank, Runnymede Trust unveiled their analysis of the Governments  recent budget. The hard hitting report suggests nearly 4 million Black and minority ethnic individuals might be disproportionately affected.

It was the towering African American 19th century, freedom fighter and abolitionist Fredrick Douglas who was one of the first black campaigners that identified the link direct between poverty and injustice. This famous maxim No Justice, No Peace owes its existence to Douglas whose writings inspired the abolitionist movements across the world and identified the link between economics and social stability.

Douglas said:

When justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organised conspiracy to rob and degrade them, neither person nor property is safe.”

Tackling institutional racism is an urgent priority in the UK. Since the Coalition Government's  2010 budget, the economic impact of austerity measures has disproportionately impacted Black British and ethnic minority groups.

Organisation such as my own Black Activist Rising Against the Cuts (BARAC) have consistently spoken out on the issues of the disproportionate effects of austerity on our communities, growing economic exclusion and injustice,  and the consequent growth of racism in the UK.

Britain’s leading race equality think tank, the Runnymede Trust has published an economic analysis of the Chancellor’s latest budget that shows most of its changes will hit our communities harder that the white working class.

Director of the Runnymede Trust, Omar Khan said:

Black and minority ethnic people are more likely to be disadvantaged by the budget. While ethnic minorities form around 11% of households and 14% of the UK population, we expect them to be over 15% of households and around 25% of individuals worst affected by the budget – because of their younger age, higher child poverty, lower wages, fewer pensioners and greater part-time working.”

Right now in predominantly Black and Muslim communities, there is an economic crisis of such immense proportions that it should be considered a national scandal . The fact that virtually no one is either aware or cares about the issue is testimony to our rendered invisibility with the consequence that racism in the UK has somehow disappeared from most of the  political agenda.

The appalling economic catastrophe facing our communities is confirmed by the Runnymede report. Over four million people will be consigned to an high levels of poverty, low pay and unemployment, yet this crisis has so far failed to puncture the national consciousness.

The facts about the disastrous economic impact of institutional, systemic racism faced by our communities, are simply ignored by politicians and mainstream media alike. Claims of racism are routinely ignored. Our cries for economic justice, fairness and equality of opportunity are like screams in outer space, which if heard at all will be far too late.

The report says the budget will, almost by accident, increase racial inequality

The question isn’t whether government deliberately makes black and minority ethnic people worse off, but rather whether the effects of policies, directly or indirectly, increase racial inequality in reality.”

I disagree. There is plenty of hard evidence prior to this budget that austerity economics has amplified racism. Research published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation as far back as 2007 found that Black and Muslim communities were suffering economic exclusion to such an extent that they were suffering a form of ‘economic apartheid’.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Race and Community published a report in 2012 stating:

The unemployment rate of black women has remained at roughly double that of white women since 1972. There has been no decrease over time or over generations in ethnic minority unemployment rates overall (both men and women), and that the second generation still experience unemployment rates which are as high as those of the first generation."

A new report published by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission was equally damming. It found that better-off families managed to provide educational and social advantages to stop their slide down the social scale. They have a ‘glass floor’ that ensures their income, professional, social and cultural networks rarely crash through this barrier. The report found less able, richer children were 35% more likely to become high earners than brighter, poorer peers. At a time when our Black and ethnic minority children in school are achieving remarkable results, the reality of economic injustice adds to a deadly social cocktail of incendiary issues.

It is inconceivable that both Government and Civil Service have been unaware of the vast research on the economic impact of racism on British Black communities.

The failure of the Government to publish its race equality impact assessment on this budget reinforces that belief and, I believe, provides powerful testament to the lack of any real political commitment to tackling systemic racism and economic exclusion.

Given the failure or refusal of the Government to publish their equality analysis, I believe the Equality and Human Rights Commission should now investigate whether the Treasury has breached the provisions of the Equality Act 2010.

The Government should have been provided with comprehensive equality impact assessments by a phalanx of civil servants. If completed they must have confirmed the disproportionate effects of the budget, given the reality of economic discrimination and racism.

The Government either ignored that advice or the Civil Service failed to undertake a proper equality impact assessment.

In the context of what we know about racism and economic inequality, the Government’s failure to ensure a proportionate and racially neutral approach that doesn’t punish black communities, can be seen as criminal.

Khan states:

“Black and minority ethnic households are more likely to be living in poverty. This is particularly notable for BME children, with nearly 50% of Pakistani children and over 40% of Bangladeshi children living in poverty, and all BME groups having higher poverty rates than white British children. Runnymede found that half of Bangladeshis – about 225,000 people – will lose out by £1,000 or more. We anticipate up to half of Bangladeshi and Pakistani households will be worse off – around 750,000 individuals in just under 200,000 households. The figure will be a bit lower proportionally for black African households, but no fewer than 300,000 individuals and 100,000 households will be negatively affected.”

The consequences of these intersecting economic and social issues for the country are profound. Black/Muslim youth unemployment has increased to terrifying levels, with 41,000 16 to 24-year olds long-term unemployed, a 49% rise from 2010, according to an analysis of official figures by the House of Commons Library.

There are over 400,000 people who have had their welfare benefits stopped since 2010. We believe many Black/Muslim youth are disproportionately represented among that number and not currently reflected in the unemployment figures. Unemployment among young black men rose from 28.8% in 2008 to 55.9% in 2011.

To give you some perspective these figures are higher that the youth unemployment in Spain. Italy, Greece and are higher than the youth unemployment rate of Gaza West Bank.

With black women facing huge levels of public sector job cuts and redundancies, our communities face an economic implosion that will result in grave social and economic crises.

Failure to recognise the nature of the crisis and effectively respond will ultimately cost the country dear. Cities become potential powder kegs when their people are without hope or opportunity, and the young far more vulnerable to criminals, extremists and terrorists. This situation is made more dangerous given the institutional racism of a criminal justice system that has seen a 67% rise Asian youth and a 54% increase in Black youth incarcerated in prison in the last year according to figures published by the Youth Justice Board.

Something must be done to reverse this  direction of travel, otherwise the inevitability of  communities exploding become ever closer.  Together we must avoid want many see as profound levels of economic immiseration, oppression and humiliation.

Lee Jasper