In 2021 the report of the Independent Inequalities Commission for Greater Manchester emphasised the need to put wellbeing and equality goals at the heart of the Greater Manchester Strategy. They recommended the development of a Race Equality Strategy. This led to a collaboration between the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and the Centre for Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE). The scope of the planned research was extended because of feedback from the Race Equality Panel to include evidence of the experiences of racialised minorities that went beyond the duties and powers of GMCA. They developed two reports, an analysis of race equality issues in Greater Manchester developed by CoDE and baseline evidence developed by GMCA. In this blog, Dr Nigel de Noronha, Research Associate in CoDE and author of the CoDE report, outlines the key findings and recommendations
- The commitment of GMCA to develop a race equality strategy is welcome, but GMCA must recognise the need for that strategy to be sustainable, embedded in their programmes of work, workforce, and leadership, and to be transparent and accountable about their achievements.
- Racial inequality must be addressed in all areas, from education, skills and employment, through to health and the criminal justice system.
- The findings from this report can be used to support race equality activity in private, public and voluntary organisations, and empower communities to hold those with power to account for tackling racial inequality.
Addressing racial inequalities
The CoDE report demonstrates the national failure to address racial inequality effectively in education, employment, health, and criminal justice. The main reason for this is the belief in government that racism is an individual behaviour rather than linked to structural or institutional racism. Historically, successful action to address inequality has been driven by local activities informed by a commitment to racial justice. Too often, these initiatives have not been sustained as the individuals involved have moved on.
An opportunity for collaboration
The commitment of GMCA to develop a race equality strategy is welcome, but GMCA must recognise the need for that strategy to be sustainable, embedded in their programmes of work, and to be transparent and accountable about their achievements. They have demonstrated commitment to ‘building back better’ and invested in the Independent Inequalities Commission, the Marmot City Region report on health inequalities, the COVID-19 Resilience Plan and the establishment of a Race Equality Panel. Many of the contributors to this report emphasised the need for GMCA to:
- allow current ideas and practices to be challenged;
- make senior staff accountable for reducing racial inequality within their areas of responsibility;
- take account of the experiences of people with lived experience of racism;
- diversify the GMCA workforce and leadership.
The delivery of race equality relies significantly on partnership working which may be limited by organisational boundaries, the legal powers that individual authorities have, and the way these are interpreted. The need for continuing challenge has been a characteristic of programmes to deliver race equality. This suggests the need for independent oversight to allow the programmes developed by GMCA and its partners to be held accountable by the communities they serve.
Supporting residents to achieve their potential
In education, the schools’ response to COVID-19 highlights the importance of the professionalism of the teaching workforce and the benefits of inter-school collaboration to help young people achieve their potential. Measures of success should include wellbeing and broader pro-social attitudes and behaviours as well as attainment.
In employment, “building back better” requires all working people in Greater Manchester to have access to good jobs. The main sources of data for understanding this in Greater Manchester are survey data (the Labour Force and Annual Population Survey). The sample size means that detailed information for ethnicity is limited. This suggests the need to develop local mechanisms, perhaps through the Greater Manchester Residents’ survey that will capture the information required.
The Marmot report defined a ‘good job’ as full-time employment at above two thirds of median pay in its analysis. In 2018, the 34 local public service organisations in Greater Manchester committed to tackling racial inequality in the workforce. The latest evidence from April 2021 suggests that many have struggled to deliver this commitment.
Protecting all people in Greater Manchester
In health, the NHS has had significant weaknesses in addressing racial inequalities with poor evidence to analyse what they do achieve due to the failure to collect ethnic monitoring data. The Greater Manchester Integrated Care Partnership has plans in place to address this and promise to achieve a step change in how we understand race equality in Greater Manchester. This will allow targeted interventions to address major areas of racial inequality including primary and secondary care treatment in areas such as mental health and maternity services.
The Marmot report identified the need for partners in Greater Manchester to work together to address the broader determinants of health for all. These include income, poverty and debt; housing; and encouraging healthy behaviours. For older people particularly, addressing inequalities, involving older people, and investment in social infrastructure has been central to addressing social isolation.
The criminal justice system needs to address how it can improve the protection of all people in Greater Manchester. This will include moving beyond the measures currently used to exercise social control over racialised minorities by collective prosecution, widespread surveillance and disproportionate use of punishments.
Reflecting on the project
I hope that this report will inform and inspire policymakers to take targeted action and enable the Race Equality Panel to work with them to co-design solutions to address the racial inequality across Greater Manchester. I will consider this work to have been successful if it is used to support race equality activity in private, public and voluntary organisations, and empower communities to hold those with power to account for tackling racial inequality.
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