23 March 2022
The government launched its Inclusive Britain strategy last week. This was as a direct response to the recommendations of the March 2021 Commission on Race and Ethic Disparities, otherwise known as the Sewell Report.
London Youth’s perspective
London Youth does not believe that the March 2021 conclusions of the Sewell report represent the correct starting point for the government’s review. Its findings on the absence of systemic or institutional racism in the United Kingdom run counter to what we know of our member youth organisations and the young people they work with. We do not believe this reflects the true nature of the racial disparities that many young Londoners face in their everyday lives. We highlighted the significant shortfalls in the Commission’s vision to tackle race and inequalities in the UK here. As an organisation London Youth underlines our commitment to anti-racism. We regularly view how we uphold our strategy and action plan. Our latest review was in December 2021.
The Inclusive Britain strategy sets out 70 recommendations across a number of areas that are relevant to London’s youth sector. One recommendation in particular speaks to the urgent need to rethink and repair the current framework of engagement between police and communities.
“The police need the powers to tackle crime – but there also needs to be effective local scrutiny of these powers in order to enhance trust and strengthen relations between police and communities. The Home Office, with policing partners including Police and Crime Commissioners, will develop by summer 2023 a new, national framework for how the use of police powers – including stop and search and use of force – are scrutinised at a local level. This framework will ensure that local scrutiny panels are independently led, reflect the diversity of the areas they represent and give police the confidence to use their powers with the backing of local communities”
The voice of young people and their lived experience need to be actively sought at all stages of the development of this new national framework. With the appalling findings in the Hackney local safeguarding report on Child Q, a strengthened youth-centric approach in police outreach is more urgent today than it ever was.
We also wholeheartedly agree with Caroline Russell, London Assembly Member for the Green Party who recently wrote that children “need youth workers not police officers in our schools.”
Inclusive Britain action plan
There are however a number of other important measures set out in the Inclusive Britain plan, many of which are aimed at improving outcomes for children and young people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds. The plan includes a government commitment to stop using “aggregated and unhelpful terms such as BAME, to better focus on understanding disparities and outcomes for specific ethnic groups.” Other actions span early years, education, youth unemployment, and social justice among others. These include:
- a targeted apprenticeships campaign to inform young people from ethnic minority backgrounds, facing discrimination or disadvantage, of the full range of career pathways open to them and encourage them to take up apprenticeships in growth sectors.
- the establishment of a new office to target health disparities in the UK, focusing on research, communications and expertise to reduce health inequalities across all groups, including children and young people.
- the Department for Education (DfE) will carry out an analysis in early 2022 to understand pupil attainment and investigate whether there are any specific findings and implications for different ethnic groups to tackle disparities.
- A £15m investment in a two-year programme to pilot the impact of placing full-time specialists in alternative provision in the top 22 serious violence hotspots has also been pledged.
- The DfE plans to “phase in” an extended school day, prioritising disadvantaged areas to provide pupils with the opportunity to engage in physical and cultural activities.
- The government has committed to ensuring all schools are teaching an inclusive curriculum.
The Inclusive Britain strategy does set out an action plan that, if fully implemented, has the potential to address a number of these inequalities.
London Youth, however, stands by our earlier position: the Sewell report is not the right starting point for a serious action plan tackling race and inequalities in the UK. The Government’s response to the report is therefore undermined by the failure to reflect its significant shortfalls.
We will however be looking constructively at the detail of the action plan as it emerges, and will set out our further thoughts.