Two recent reports assessing social and economic inequalities among the BAME community in the West of England provided a framework for the discussions, and facilitated open and frank exchange between the candidates and attendees, allowing them to get to root of the problem.
Among the various findings of the reports, some headline figures stood out, which helped to shape the debate and decide upon 4 key priorities for the Metro Mayor:
- The BAME population of the West of England constitutes 10% of total population
- Out of the 348 districts of England and Wales:
- Bristol is the 7th worst place in England and Wales to be from a BAME background. It is the 2nd worst place to be Black (CoDE Data, 2015);
- 60% of Bristol’s BAME population live in the city’s most disadvantaged wards;
- 40% of Bristol’s BAME population live in the inner city wards (BCC Ward Profiles, 2016);
- Unemployment rate in BAME people aged over 25 is twice that of White British people;
- Nearly 30% of the BAME population live in overcrowded households compared to less than 10% of the White British Population (CoDE Data, 2015).
Education, skills and training
BAME communities and individuals are systemically discriminated against by the mainstream education system. The problems are endemic and include - low levels of ‘aspiration’ for BAME students in schools; low numbers of BAME teachers and education managers; inadequate cultural understanding among teachers and education management; inadequate understanding of the range of social issues affecting the learning of young people living in areas of disadvantage; no local accountability and minimal parental and community involvement in the running of schools due to the academy system.
Furthermore the funding and planning for skills and training happens at a regional level. Whilst this makes strategic sense there are several systemic and structural issues that result in the discrimination of BAME communities in the region. The procurement and contracting processes run by the Skills Funding Agency are such that the smaller, specialist community training providers are all but excluded from the process, meaning that local and specialist organisations are prevented from becoming sustainable.
In addition training in fields such as cleaning, care work, and security jobs is repeatedly put forward as the solution to unemployment and poverty. The high tech/new technology training and employment opportunities are usually targeted at the wealthier, predominantly white, urban, sub-urban, or semi-rural areas. This is discriminatory.
We believe the Mayor needs to:
- Apply pressure to both central government and local authorities to address these issues so that BAME children in the region can receive an education that will equip them with the skills and knowledge to fulfil their potential
- Distribute the Adult Skills budget in an equitable manner to ensure that BAME communties can access effective training provision
- Invest in new technology training located within areas of disadvantage e.g. Lawrence Hill
Business, enterprise and employment
Despite significant investment into the region and Bristol being the second fastest growing economy outside of London, the BAME community, particularly those living in inner city areas, have accrued little benefit from these developments.
Whilst there are a range of SME and social enterprise support services available, most of these aren’t accessible or suitable for the BAME business community. There is a lack of specialist incubation and business support services for BAME entrepreneurs; lack of investment accessibility; and the aforementioned lack of adequate market information.
Compounding matters, there is no specific data available regarding BAME led businesses that could be used to facilitate a process whereby collaborative and consortia based bidding for contracts related to big investment programmes could be undertaken.
We therefore call on the Mayor to:
- Do more to ensure that benefit is accrued equitably across the communities in the region in terms of both employment and enterprise
- Embark on a mapping exercise/audit to determine that extent of and sectoral specialisms and capacities within the BAME led business community
- Invest in strategic relationship and investment brokerage across the region specifically for the BAME business and social enterprises community
The housing crisis in the West of England is particularly acute in Bristol, and with 75% of the region’s BAME population living in Bristol, the housing situation for the BAME community is complex.
On the one hand, the economic impacts of racial inequality discussed means that the types of accommodation created, the associated tenure, the affordability of housing are taken into consideration and balanced against pre-existing density issues, and the mobility of occupants.
On the other, local authorities need to recognise the extent to which BAME families and communities living in the outer-lying urban estates and in rural areas experience isolation and limited access to community based support networks.
We suggest that:
- Planning ensures that development meets the needs and demands of local BAME people, rather than just businesses and the wealthy newcomers seeking to move into the area
- Racial discrimination in accessing private rented accommodation is eliminated
- Provision of adequate transport links to facilitate BAME people accessing both employment and community networks are considered
Voice and influence
The BAME communities of the region are currently the furthest, structurally and systemically, from the decision-making process that affect their lives. There is a significant and real risk that this disparity will be exacerbated by the new context of devolution.
The Metro Mayor needs to engage with the BAME sector through an agreed engagement plan to ensure BAME communities are also represented at a regional level.
If this is achieved then the West of England has a brilliant opportunity of tackling the deep-rooted racial inequalities that have existed for generations.