The general election will take place on Thursday, sadly against a backdrop of terrible terrorist attacks. We are all thinking about those that have lost their lives, those that been injured and their families and friends.
The race equality sector should continue to help to bring our diverse communities together to find practical solutions to the challenges we face and do all that we can to improve ethnic/faith diversity, especially in the workplace. Integrating neighbourhoods and communities is a real challenge and this is where we need to have a more balanced conversation that involves young people.
It is difficult to find agreement within the race equality sector about what we mean by ‘integration’ and ‘segregation’ as concepts. Migrant settlement patterns to this country over the centuries, and more recently, often show that the settled communities transition to different locations for various reasons including on the grounds of faith, race, property values and social mobility. Migrant communities strive to adapt and make a contribution while holding on to their culture, create businesses, places to practice their faith and social spaces. Our view of integration might well be shaped by our own experiences and where we live.
What does BTEG want to see the next Government do for young BAME people?
Operation Black Vote, Runnymede Trust and a wide range of race equality organisations produced a comprehensive set of demands which BTEG supports. A key demand is for the next government to produce a national race equality strategy.
BTEG’s focus is on young people aged 11-30 years and we want to see all young people, and especially young BAME people, leaving the education system with good GCSEs, A Levels and degrees and securing good employment opportunities, including apprenticeships.
There are gaps to close on all of these fronts. For example, the unfairness in the apprenticeships system persists despite the attention it receives from the government. Today only 10.5% of apprentices are from BAME backgrounds. The unemployment rate for BAME graduates is much higher than for white graduates. In London 18% of black graduates are unemployed compared to 8% of white graduates. Perhaps the most disturbing statistic is the number of young BAME people in the youth justice system - 39% of under-18s in custody are BAME, mainly black males.
We want to see a far greater focus on deprived neighbourhoods and wealth creation. Local councils have for many years used EU procurement/competition regulations to argue against giving local contracts to local firms. Now we are leaving the EU its time for local councils to set aside more contracts for local firms, and local BAME firms, who are more likely to employ local people. We also want to see a new drive on supporting young people in deprived areas to start their own businesses.
The two main parties have made some important commitments. I want to highlight some key ones on both sides.
The Tory Party talks about giving ‘targeted support’ for 18-24 year olds so they have the ‘best chance of getting into work’. They want to incentivise employers to take on ex-offenders, those with a disability, chronic mental health and care leavers by offering them a one year National Insurance holiday. There is a commitment to ‘legislate to mandate change in police practices if stop and search does not become more targeted and stop and arrest ratio does not improve’.
The Labour Party sets out in its ‘Race and Faith manifesto’ commitments to ‘monitor and put into place solutions to tackle the injustice of higher exclusion rates of black Caribbean pupils, reintroduce the Education Maintenance Allowance and abolish university tuition fees.’ They too will ‘act to bring an end to excessive use of stop and search and deliver policing by consent’. Labour commits to implement a ‘comprehensive strategy for racial equality’. In employment they commit to ‘real living wage of £10 an hour by 2020’ and ‘equal pay audit requirements of large employers.’ They will also ‘launch an inquiry into
recruitment discrimination and consider initiatives to tackle ethnic bias, including exploring the practicalities in rolling out name-blind recruitment practices if necessary’.
Voters and hopefully many young voters will weigh up the merits of the offer made by the two main parties. BTEG will comment on the above after the election.