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How Can Regeneration Deliver Race Equality? - Learning from London.

Friday, July 7, 2006

At a recent conference organised by the Commission for Racial Equality Meg gave the following speech.

 

When there are few opportunities for work, or getting on in the job you have appears impossible, or getting a good education for your children is constrained, the future can appear bleak. Particularly if you suffer discrimination, experience abuse, are made to feel worthless. Communities do not thrive if the people living in them feel there is little prospect of a better future.

 

But when people feel confident, feel they have something positive to offer, we all gain. When we have the opportunity to do well in school, succeed in our career, have the chance of building a good life for ourselves and our families - communities get stronger. Equality and opportunity benefits us all.

 

Cities, Regeneration and Communities

One thing that regeneration and race equality agendas share is the goal of delivering social and economic benefits for all communities. We want to ensure that all citizens share in the benefits of economic growth, with economically strong cities and regions driving national prosperity. Effective regeneration is one important step in achieving this ambition.

 

The State of the English Cities report published in March told us that England’s major cities and towns have recovered after years of decline. They are once again successful places for people to live, work and spend their leisure time. The majority of these cities have become more integrated during the past decade. However, social cohesion is uneven across and within cities. Even within successful cities there are still deprived communities. Regeneration is about reviving and improving the most run-down and deprived areas, about creating opportunities for economic growth and social cohesion.

 

Although many from ethnic minority backgrounds thrive and are successful, the picture is not uniform. We know certain ethnic groups continue to experience an inferior standard of life including in the areas of education, health, housing and employment. For example:

  • ethnic minority households are nearly twice as likely as white households to live in homes that are non-decent (for reasons of disrepair, unfitness or need for modernisation),
  • ethnic minority residents are more likely to experience a poor quality built environment and to feel less safe in public spaces,
  • individuals from such groups are more at risk from crime than white people, and
  • they are twice as likely as white people to be unemployed, and one and half times more likely than the overall working age population to be economically inactive.

 

We also know that ethnic minority communities are disproportionately represented in deprived areas. Over two-thirds of England’s ethnic minority population live in the 88 most deprived local authority areas, compared to two-fifths of the total population. We also know from research into past regeneration initiatives, that they often fail to fully engage or benefit ethnic minority communities, with issues that are important being afforded low priority.

 

Tackling Discrimination and Inequality

It is now thirty years since the Race Relations Act became law, the Act which led to the establishment of the Commission for Race Equality. Following the Government’s expansion of the Act with the public duty to promote race equality in 2000, UK legislation on race equality is amongst the most powerful in the world. Major public programmes such as the New Deal, the National Minimum Wage, Sure Start and Neighbourhood Renewal have had a profound impact on the lives of many of the most disadvantaged.  But as we know, it’s not just about having tough and effective laws in this area, and innovative programmes; though they are important. It’s really changing how people think about themselves, how they think about others.

 

Government believes that communities benefit from diversity, and so we are working to tackle discrimination and inequalities. The new Department for Communities and Local Government (or DeCLOG!) is now responsible for the cross-Departmental strategy for increasing community cohesion and race equality, Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society. This strategy brings together measures to improve opportunities for everyone in Britain - helping to ensure that no person’s race or ethnic background is a barrier to their success. The approach is about tailored initiatives that meet the specific needs of particularly disadvantaged communities, rather than treating all ethnic minority communities in the same way.

 

As you know, Darra Singh was recently appointed Chair of the Commission on Integration and Cohesion. Its task is to consider how local areas can make the most of the benefits delivered by increasing diversity - but it will also consider how they can respond to the tensions it can sometimes cause.  It will develop practical approaches that build communities’ own capacity to prevent problems, including those caused by segregation and the dissemination of extremist ideologies. 

 

The Commission will give its recommendations in June 2007. It will undertake a significant programme of consultation, public meetings and events across the country, and will engage young people and women and those who have traditionally had less opportunity to contribute to this type of debate. 

 

Commission for Equality and Human Rights

The Department has an ambitious agenda for democratic renewal and economic regeneration, to

build communities that are tolerant, cohesive and fair, and to champion social justice and equality. Part of this agenda includes the initiatives on equality and cohesion across Government - the Equalities Review, Discrimination Law Review and the establishment of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights. 

 

We will sponsor the new Commission, which will have responsibility for tackling discrimination across the equality spectrum: age, disability, faith, gender, race, and sexual orientation. It will respect the rights and dignity of all members of our society. As many of you will know, the Commission will be open for business in 2007, and by April 2009 the Commission for Racial Equality will join the new body.

 

There has been a fair amount of concern expressed about the new Commission's ability to tackle specific issues related to race. There is a fear - an unjustified fear, I believe - that somehow race issues will not be a priority for this new body. The new Commission will be a body that will draw strength from having expertise and commitment from many expert and passionate voices focused on one mission - to fight discrimination in all its forms. This will give added and wider support to issues of race, giving a clear signal to institutions, individuals and society that discrimination is simply not acceptable in Britain today.

 

Our plans include a number of specific safeguards on the race agenda. These include the Commission having particular regard to race and religion in its good relations work, and ensuring that ethnic minorities are included in consultations on its strategic plan. I have no doubt that the Commission will need to set up a race committee and to appoint ethnic minority Commissioners. Also continued support for local race equality groups, such as Race Equality Councils, is assured for the foreseeable future. I have set up a new group of stakeholders to help me ensure that race is fully factored into planning for the Commission on Equality and Human Rights.

 

Taking a Modern Approach

Today's event provides a good illustration of the value in taking an integrated approach to equalities. Regeneration does not happen in a vacuum, it involves - or should involve - local people. Some may be black, or Asian, or white. Some will identify themselves as being from an ethnic minority; others will not, or will think of themselves more in terms of their faith or belief.  Some may also be disabled; some will not.

 

Examples of how we have already been able to help build successful partnerships in deprived communities lie with the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund. This is a programme where in the 86 most deprived local authority areas in England Government made available additional resources to improve conditions for the most disadvantaged groups. Of particular interest to this conference are the following two examples of the Fund at work.

 

In Middlesbrough there were concerns over the performance of Black and minority ethnic schoolchildren. £150,000 of the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund was allocated by Middlesbrough Local Strategic Partnership to support GCSE attainment in the three secondary schools in the district with the highest proportion of Black and minority ethnic pupils. The Borough Council agreed a target in 2001 that 40% of these pupils would attain 5 A*-Cs at GCSE by 2003/04, a considerable increase from the baseline figure of 27%. The GCSE Ethnic Minority Support Project actually exceeded its target by 3.5 %, the self-worth of those pupils has grown and they now have the opportunity of a better future.

 

Whilst in Coventry the Fund was able to help in the jobs sector. Employment advisers work from a specially adapted bus that travels around the city to support events and new store openings, especially in the priority neighbourhoods. It promotes job opportunities by supporting people filling in applications, and advising on suitable training to increase employment prospects. The project focuses on priority groups, for example Black and minority ethnic women. As a result, when a new Tesco store opened recently 45% of the new staff came from the 3 local priority neighbourhoods.

 

London

London is one of the world’s most ethnically diverse cities, that’s one of the things that make it a place full of opportunities. One of the reasons that London was successful in the bid for the 2012 Olympic Games was its proactive promotion of diversity. Many regeneration projects already under way in London offer both opportunities and challenges in helping to build stronger, more cohesive communities.

 

The Thames Gateway is one of Europe’s largest regeneration projects, in which the Government is investing £6 billion. The Gateway stretches for 40 miles along the Thames estuary, from the Docklands to Southend in Essex and Sheerness in Kent, an area rich in both social and environmental diversity, with around 1.6 million residents. Our aim is 120,000 new homes, 180,000 new jobs, high quality transport infrastructure, and sustainable improvements in the lives of all residents.

 

The Government will produce a Strategic Framework for the Thames Gateway. This will join up development funding, guide investment, and integrate economic, public service and housing development. We have already taken steps to assess the potential impacts that this Framework will have on race equality in the Gateway project.

 

Racial equality is very important to social justice in this country. It’s the Government’s aim that no one should be disadvantaged by their racial background. But understanding the local context is crucial to success. It’s vital to ensure that all communities feel they have a say in the development of their local area, and that regeneration initiatives do not generate resentment and contribute to community tensions.

 

We are aware that regeneration will rely in part on the growth of enterprise and self-employment, and that is why my Department is taking the lead on the Local Enterprise Growth Initiative (or LEGI!!). LEGI was introduced to help increase enterprise and investment in our most deprived local areas - thereby boosting local incomes and employment opportunities.

 

We have noted in some of the bids how targeting ethnic minority enterprise has been an important aspect of regeneration. In north-west Croydon, where 45% of the population are from an ethnic minority community, their bid won £20 million to help increase the ethnic minority involvement in business awareness and start-up programmes.

 

Conclusion

There are positive signs - the 2005 Citizenship survey indicates that the vast majority of people in England and Wales (80%) feel that people from different background get on well together. The survey suggests that interaction between different communities is vital in building cohesion and reducing racial prejudice. People living in ethnically diverse areas were also more positive, feeling that ethnic differences are respected.

 

I look forward to hearing your views and hope you enjoy what I am sure will be a very rewarding conference. 


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