Making amends

Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 places a statutory duty on councils to
eliminate discrimination, but not all of them are ready. Natalie Valios
reports, while three  care sector
professionals offer views on whether the act will help defuse tensions simmering
in many of the UK’s cities – tensions that exploded across northern towns last

relations hit the headlines last summer when some of the worst rioting in a
decade hit the streets of Bradford, Oldham and Burnley. In its aftermath, an independent
community cohesion review team was set up by the Home Office. Its report
identified recurrent elements that contributed to a deeply fractured community.1
For example, ignorance about each other’s communities had grown into
fear, which was then exploited by extremist groups. Poverty and deprivation had
led to frustration. A failure to communicate and a lack of honest and robust
debate meant that people tended to "tiptoe around" the sensitive
issues of race, religion and culture.

race is not a new issue, not all local authorities are geared up for the Race
Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 and its duties. According to the Commission for
Racial Equality report Equality in Practice,2 local
authorities’ uptake of the CRE’s Racial Equality Means Quality standard was
disappointing. Despite being taken up by the Audit Commission in 1997 as one of
its performance indicators, only two-thirds of councils had adopted the
standard by September 2000.

chairperson Gurbux Singh says that although the level of awareness of the act
and its duties is high among local authorities, he is less confident of their
ability to deliver. "Not all local authorities are prepared to the same
standard or are viewing the challenge organisation-wide.

instance, we are concerned that some local authorities are seeing their human
resources team as responsible for complying with the positive duty, whereas the
point of the duty is to place race equality issues at the heart of the
thinking, functions and policies of all departments. Only time will tell
whether local authorities deliver on time and do enough to comply – there are
urgent challenges for them ahead."

Phillips, deputy chairperson of the London Assembly, shares Singh’s concerns.
He thinks that some local authorities may only wake up to the seriousness of
the situation when an authority is taken to court for failing to comply with
the duties.

suspect that most local authorities don’t have a clue about how serious it is.
They will only realise when one has to pay up. Some are on top of it. But a lot
think it’s another piece of PC nonsense and will be sorry they weren’t properly

well as producing a race equality scheme, councils must adopt this standard as
a Best Value performance target. To help, the CRE is publishing a statutory
code of practice to go alongside the act as well as non-statutory guidance
documents for public bodies, due to be ready by the end of the month.

for complying with the act’s duties falls on to the shoulders of councillors.
As far as implications for social services departments go, they will have to
look afresh at their policies and practices to ensure there is no unintentional
discrimination, says Andrew Cozens, junior vice president of the Association of
Directors of Social Services.

will be a particular challenge for those without a large ethnic minority
population, he says. They will have to look at issues such as the availability
of information in appropriate languages, review assessment arrangements, take
faith into consideration in care provision, and make particular efforts to
consult ethnic minority communities on new practices and procedures that may
affect them.

social services director at Leicester Council, Cozens is well aware of the
importance of harmony in the community. Most of the city’s residents are from
ethnic minorities. There is a large Asian population, and 60 languages spoken
in the city. It was held up as an example of good community relations in the
independent community cohesion review team report.

council was one of three to be given beacon status by the government last month
for promoting race equality. Cozens attributes this achievement to strong links
with community and faith leaders: "The communication channels are

importance of keeping these communication channels open is not lost on the
local authorities caught up in last summer’s disturbances. In Bradford,
tensions flared at Easter 2001, when white members of a football team ended up
drinking close to a Hindu wedding ceremony. The resulting scuffle ended up on
the streets and the young Asian men rounded up their friends on mobile phones.
By the time the police arrived, the white men had left the scene and a
confrontation between Asians and the police ensued. Then, in July, a BNP march
acted as another trigger to escalate tensions.

of sporadic incidents in the area since 1995, the council had already
commissioned former CRE chairperson Sir Herman Ouseley to review community
relations in the district before the riots. His report, published a week into
the riots, describes the degree of segregation, polarisation, discrimination
and deprivation in the area. It also highlights the exclusion felt by young

not just about race, but about gender, class and age," says Kersten
England, head of policy at Bradford Council.

community relations are good, she says. "The perception that it was all
racial tension isn’t true. It is about the future of young men, black and white.
At times people inappropriately racialise what is going on here in an unhelpful

the time of the community cohesion report’s publication, Gurbux Singh stated
that there needed to be a special effort to engage young people of white and
ethnic minority backgrounds to help them understand each other. This forms a
core part of Bradford’s strategy to ensure the summer riots are not repeated.

include changing the council’s constitution so that a newly established youth
parliament can play a part in formal decision-making. Regeneration bodies are
being encouraged to involve young people.

parts of the district there are up to 90 per cent white or Asian children in
schools, reflecting residential segregation. To address this, inner and outer
city schools are being twinned in a bid to promote greater racial awareness and

council is also reviewing its single regeneration budget activities because
tensions have been exacerbated between communities when one area receives more
money than another. And in the largest outsourcing in the country, it has
transferred its education services to a private sector provider, which has the
key task of raising educational attainment to national levels or above by 2005.

2010, it is estimated there will be a 22 per cent growth in large families,
mainly from ethnic minorities in the area. Housing stock has been transferred
to five registered social landlords with the means to provide services to
ethnic minority families.

economic and environmental well-being needs to be in place so that community
cohesion is possible," says England.

authorities struggling to put together a community cohesion strategy, the Local
Government Association will be publishing guidance in the summer. Meanwhile, in
Bradford the mood is optimistic. There have been several acid tests since the
summer riots – in particular bonfire night, which has historically been used as
an excuse for violence – and all passed peacefully.

isn’t an agenda that will ever go away because we are always going to have to
work at living together," says England. "We are trying to develop a
district at ease with itself."

Community cohesion review team, Community Cohesion, Home Office,

Commission for Racial Equality, Equality in Practice, CRE, 2001, 

If you wish to contribute to the debate about race and social care, come to Community
Live on 22 May at the Business Design Centre in Islington and
participate in our session Playing the Race Card: Are Services Getting it
Right? Speakers include human rights lawyer Imran Khan, and Gurbux Singh,
chairperson of the CRE. For free tickets telephone 020 8652 4782, or visit 

A recruitment opportunity

Coleman is health strategy adviser at the Commission for Racial Equality.

end result of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act should be that action to
promote race equality is integrated into the day-to-day activities and
management of all public bodies. The amendments provide a framework for
development that is consistent with other government initiatives around social
inclusion and community cohesion. The thrust of the changes is to ensure that
there is equal access to services and employment for all groups in the
community. Progress on these fronts is clearly a fundamental part of action on
community cohesion. This is especially true for the health and social care
sector, a large employer with responsibility for services aimed at vulnerable
and excluded parts of the community.

specific duties around consultation and publication of information complement
the other duties, which focus on both the service and the employment side of a
public body’s functions. They should mean that local communities have the
information to scrutinise the performance of authorities and the opportunity to
influence the priorities for action. Again this is consistent with other
government initiatives around community involvement, such as the establishment
of local strategic partnerships and the community empowerment fund.

extent to which this produces results depends on the commitment of people in
each organisation. It also needs people to think in ways that cut across
traditional organisational boundaries. The proliferation of partnerships in the
public sector provides the opportunity for joined-up thinking to promote race
equality. For example, social services departments are finding it difficult to
recruit professionally qualified staff. The other side of the coin is that
unemployment rates are higher among ethnic minority groups than in the
population as a whole. It makes sense for all public health, education and
social services bodies to work together to develop training and career paths
into the social care and health professions for people from local ethnic
minority communities. This would help them all meet their duties under the act,
reduce unemployment in the local community, begin to address the social care
sector’s recruitment difficulties and improve the quality of service delivery
to ethnic minority communities by increasing the number of qualified staff from
those communities.

The amended act

Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, which came into force in April 2001, forms
the legal backdrop to the recommendations in Community Cohesion. Unlike the
Race Relations Act 1976, the amended act places a statutory general duty on
local authorities, and other public bodies, to eliminate unlawful
discrimination, and promote equal opportunities and good race relations. Under
this general duty, local authorities must take account of racial equality in
their daily functions, including policy making, service delivery and employment

the new act, they must be ready to comply with more specific duties by the end
of this month. By then, each local authority must have published a race
equality scheme. This is a public statement of how the authority plans to meet
its general and specific duties. Under a scheme, local authorities will have to:

Assess whether their functions and policies are relevant to race equality.

Monitor their policies to see how they affect race equality.

Assess and consult on policies they are proposing to introduce.

Publish the results of their consultations, monitoring and assessments.

Make sure that the public have access to the information and services they

Train their staff on the new duties.

duties also include monitoring ethnicity of existing staff and applicants for
jobs, promotion and training and publishing the results annually. Grievances,
disciplinary action, performance appraisals, training and dismissals must also
be monitored by employers of more than 150 full-time employees. Councils’
performance will be monitored by the Commission for Racial Equality, and the
duties will be legally enforceable.

The debate must stay local

Khan is a development officer at the Runnymede Trust.

about the strategic impact of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act and community
cohesion comes naturally to those who have been living with racism, and trying
to address inequalities. After all, the riots last summer occurred despite the
act’s existence. This cynicism is aggravated when you consider that many of the
core issues of the community cohesion agenda attract much hostile political and
media attention.

only way to ensure that action on fundamental issues around race, citizenship
and belonging will not be sacrificed for a managerial approach focusing on
local government structures is by giving local people the opportunity to
address the issues for themselves. For too long debates about equality issues
have had no relevance for the communities involved. They remain marginalised
and excluded. Local and central government have key roles, but discussion needs
to take place across the activities of different organisations and among  communities themselves.

Race Relations Amendment Act, the social inclusion, neighbourhood renewal and
community cohesion agenda have created a window of opportunity in which
valuable debate and action can take place. Projects and organisations have been
addressing fundamental questions around inequality, such as poverty and access
to services. The Home Office has set up a community cohesion unit, which
intends to draw on many sources of expertise.

cohesion is clearly linked to any debate about race and forms part of the
Runnymede Trust’s vision for a successful multi-ethnic UK. A recent report
posed these questions: what values and loyalties must be shared by communities
and individuals in one nation? How should disputes and incompatible values between
different communities be handled? How is a balance to be struck between the
need to treat people equally, the need to treat people differently, and the
need to maintain shared values and social cohesion?

community cohesion agenda must clarify the relationship between cohesion,
equality and difference. The agenda can have a positive impact on communities
that struggle to address the central questions above. It needs, however, to
remain close to local people and involve them at every stage.

‘Inclusion not exclusion’

Hines is a senior social worker at the London Borough of Croydon.

Stephen Lawrence Inquiry in February 1999 was the catalyst for the Race
Relations (Amendment) Act. The fight for race equality for black activists has
always been an uphill struggle. The judicial court arena has been the
battlefield where the struggle takes place. The drama of the courtroom exposes
the subtleties of racism.

becomes a fine art woven into sophisticated legal arguments at the point of
deliberations and final adjudications on outcomes of race discrimination cases.
The burden of proof rests squarely on the applicant’s shoulders, leaving the
respondents to glibly talk their way out of it.

legislation for cases of race discrimination does not even incorporate
"racism". This has proved difficult for applicants, where clearly
there is a case to be answered. The Race Relations (Amendment) Act demands a
complete overhaul of thinking by requiring inclusion instead of exclusion, fair
policies instead of lip service, accountability not superficiality.

who will be invited to sit at the table to monitor the implementation, to
ensure positive outcomes? Who will challenge the system when the disparity of
treatment clearly becomes visible? These are usually people who bear the brunt
of racial discrimination – they are often overworked, burnt out,
under-resourced, labelled troublemakers and victimised.

is important to note that there is now a specific statutory duty for public
authorities to comply and consult. The key area that one should be aware of is
the impact assessment. Public authorities must not only consult with service
users and staff, but must assess the impact of what they are doing. Public
authorities cannot assess themselves. No longer will authorities be able to
tick boxes, boast about how wonderful their policies are or how many black
staff they have in the department.

order for the act to be implemented successfully it requires listening to
ethnic minority communities. The usual denial of the extent to which racism
impacts on black people will not wash and will now have to be addressed and
viewed through the eyes of the people it affects. Although voluntary
organisations do not come under the umbrella of public authorities, if they are
contracted to do work for them, they will in turn become vicariously liable.

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.