London Skyline

At London Youth, we welcome the recent publication of the Cabinet Office’s Race Disparity Audit and the associated Ethnicity Facts and Figures website as useful resources to highlight racial disparity in the UK. While it may be uncomfortable to see the figures laid out so starkly, they come as no surprise. It has been increasingly hard for the country to ignore the racial disparity depicted in publications like this audit and the Lammy Review on the treatment of black and minority ethnic (BME) people in the criminal justice system.

The audit highlights a number of troubling racial disparities in areas like policing, housing, education, and employment. Particularly worrying for London Youth is the sharp contrast between often higher attainment in education by BME people and their representation in employment. For example, around 1 in 10 black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi, and mixed-identifying people over 16 were unemployed, compared with 1 in 25 white British people. London Youth welcomes any initiatives by the Department for Work and Pensions or other parts of the government to address this.

Case study: Racial bias in youth employment

Hope* is a young person who has been involved in Talent Match London to find long-term employment, while studying for a psychology degree. After working with us, Hope was able to get an opportunity in a bar for a national chain. Her experience was that very quickly she was made to feel unwelcome. She felt that she was treated differently to other staff members and was treated as untrustworthy because of the colour of her skin and the part of London where she grew up. What made the bias that Hope faced worse, is that it came from her managers – people who held a position of authority over her. Unwilling to put up with this environment, Hope left the position despite it affecting her goal of achieving sustainable employment for six months. She is currently working at a research company and continuing her studies. How many other young people from BME backgrounds have similar stories?

*Not her actual name

A good example of the action being taken by London Youth and our members is Talent Match London, a youth-led partnership to help young people find sustainable employment, supported by the Big Lottery Fund. We know that our mix of youth outreach, personalised support, and engagement with employers works. Since 2014, Talent Match London has helped over 2,000 young people and engaged with nearly 1,000 employers. Typically, we anticipate that 75% of the young people involved in Talent Match London will be from BME backgrounds. Yet, we also expect that another 40% will be ‘hidden’ young people.We share the concerns of Theresa May and the government, and we welcome the opportunity to address the racial disparities in our society. To do so, we believe that government and community organisations will need to work together. London Youth’s members, and many other volunteer organisations, are deeply connected to their communities and have a long history of finding practical solutions to local problems. We believe that any meaningful solutions to our racial disparities will take advantage of these resources in our communities. We encourage finding ways to better support the networks and programmes already in our communities, rather than seeking to duplicate them.

The reality is that the race disparity figures, as concerning as they are, do not fully describe the whole problem. They don’t include the ‘hidden’ populations that our work in the Talent Match London programme has brought to our attention. This group is made up of young people who do not receive benefits and are not in full-time education, employment, or training. Because they are not accessing these services, they are not included in government employment figures. Some studies suggest that there could be as many 30 hidden young people for every 100 known not to be in education, employment, or training.

From our experience with Talent Match London, these hidden people are 60% male, are often in their late teens or early twenties, and 40% live in neighbourhoods with the highest income deprivation in England. London Youth sees these hidden populations as a major issue for racial disparity because our experience suggests that over 70% of them are from BME backgrounds and over 40% are black. The race disparity audit would be even harder reading if it included this extra hidden population, the majority of which is young people of BME backgrounds. We are planning work to better identify and support these hidden young people.

London is uniquely affected by the problems of racial disparity, as a city that has almost four times as many BME people and 6% more households in poverty than the national average. We see initiatives like Talent Match London as important links between education and employment for those furthest from it, and a means to address those barriers that prevent young people in London from achieving all that they can.

The Prime Minister is right that there should not be anywhere for government or society to hide from these issues. However, we would say that for local charity organisations there never has been anywhere to hide; our members are part of their communities and share in these experiences with them.

This response was written by Daniel Shoultz, Programme Manager for Talent Match Croydon, and Samuel Howell, Policy Officer.