Posted on January 20, 2005

Black and Asian People Still Live in Poverty

Nigel Morris, Guardian (London), Jan. 19

Charles Clarke will promise a fresh drive against deprivation among ethnic minorities today following the Government’s admission that it has failed to lift many blacks and Asians out of poverty.

In his first major speech as Home Secretary, he will concede that many immigrant communities still suffer poorer health and education and higher rates of unemployment than their white counterparts.

Government research has discovered that two-thirds of the ethnic minority population still live in the poorest neighbourhoods, compared with 37 per cent of whites. It says that sustained recent investment in the worst-off areas has had little success in correcting the imbalance. A Home Office consultation document says: “The scale of disadvantage experienced by black and minority ethnic communities appears to have changed little.”

There are striking variations within the overall pattern, with people of Indian and Chinese origin enjoying higher employment levels than whites, while blacks, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis perform significantly worse. Eight per cent of the population, or more than 4 million people, describe themselves as from an ethnic minority background and five per cent as belonging to a minority faith.

Reflecting the rapid change, whites are now outnumbered in the London boroughs of Brent, Newham and Tower Hamlets, while ethnic minorities are expected to account for half of the increase in the British workforce over the decade.

Mr Clarke will announce targets requiring Whitehall departments to demonstrate that ethnic minorities are receiving equal access to housing, education and other services. He will say the initiative is aimed at “ensuring everyone has equal life chances, no matter what their background”.

The Home Office document, which acknowledges there are “whole groups that are effectively left behind” and therefore vulnerable to extremism, will form the basis of the new assault by the Government on racial discrimination.

It argues that society is becoming less prejudiced over time, but acknowledges that the threat from international terrorism and new migration trends can fuel race hate, particularly in deprived areas.

“We know that people from black and minority ethnic communities still experience racist abuse, harassment and crime motivated by racism and hatred and that we are seeing a rise in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. We know that for members of Gypsy communities, overt racism is still a fact of day-to-day life,” the document says.

Mr Clarke will admit to past government mistakes in treating all ethnic minority communities in the same way and promise “greater emphasis to tailored initiatives that meet the specific needs of those particularly disadvantaged communities”. He will commit the Home Office to a new effort to build bridges between different ethnic groups by helping them to work together and understand one another.

It follows a report into the 2001 riots in northern towns which concluded that white and non-white communities were leading parallel lives at home, work and school, leading to a collapse in trust. The report says: “Engaging with young people is key, ensuring that we sow the seeds now of community cohesion in the future, through programmes twinning schools to community-led initiatives that bring young people together outside schools, in youth clubs, sports and other activities.

Mr Clarke will say that many members of the ethnic minorities are thriving in Britain, but acknowledge that the picture is patchy. He will announce “a cross-government plan of action” involving central and local government, the public services, the voluntary sector and businesses and local communities, to tackle disadvantage and prejudice.