Saturday, 23 August 2014

Race in the future - organising and support

Less than a handful of years ago there were close to 200 racial equality councils (REC's) in the United Kingdom. A recent survey undertaken on behalf of the East Midlands Racial Equality Consortium by Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council has identified only 41 remaining historic racial equality councils in England, Scotland and Wales with only 33 of them in England. Most organisations have changed their name to take on the breadth of the equality act agenda although some remain as racial equality councils. Their activities still reflect doing one or more of discrimination advice, immigration advice, hate crime monitoring and good relations/community cohesion activity. Historic REC's in the devolved nations seem to be doing well and report good staffing and volunteer numbers. For instance, Edinburgh and the Lothians Regional Equality Council have 13 staff and SEWREC (South East Wales Racial Equality Council) have 20 staff. The functioning of REC's which have not gone under is very variable. Some are just existing with committed volunteers with no paid staff support at all.

Some areas of the country such as the North East and Cumbria have no historic REC's left.
Is it that there isn't a need? Is it because there are low BAME population numbers there? Or is it that the gap has been filled by generalist equality VCS organisations? There is evidence to show that the need for REC services is just acute in areas of low populations numbers. When our REC provided racial harassment support in Wellingborough and East Northants, the numbers of race hate incidents in both areas were often the same despite a very much larger BAME population in Wellingborough than East Northants. The indication was that if you lived as a BAME family in East Northants you were more likely to experience racism that if you live in the more urban and diverse area of Wellingborough. In Cumbria, the race disproportionality of stop searches even attracted the attention of the Equality and Human Rights Commission blowing apart the myth that racial equality advocates are only needed in areas where there are high BAME populations .

Could part of the picture be the erosion of the environments that REC's have traditionally worked in? Discrimination advice service users now have the added barrier of tribunal fees of at least £250. This situation has resulted in an 80% reduction in tribunal applications. That put together with the imposition of early concilliation by ACAS and the abolution of the Equality Act questionairre, send a cold, harsh message to communities facing discrimination and shout loud and clear that the odds are being stacked against them.

For those REC's working on issues of hate crime, the austerity agenda has meant massive cuts in investment in dedicated services like Hate Crime Units are well as other sources of support such as community safety partnerships and budgets. The message right across the country is that where in the past there was an acknowledgement that expertise was required to resolve such issues quickly and effectively, it is simply unaffordable now.

Immigration services are also seeing over the last few years the racheting up of criteria in the baying for blood of those trying to address the "immigration problem". The introduction of the £18,600 income threshold to bring over a single dependant relative has meant that migration of people uniting families is not a trickle but an occasional drip.

In this kind of operating environment, is it any wonder that REC's struggle? All the more reason to celebrate and support those that are still alive.

List of historical racial equality councils still functioning:


Barking and Dagenham Racial Equality Council
Ealing Equality Council
Enfield Equality Council
Haringay Race and Equality Council
Harrow Equalities Centre
Hounslow Race and Equalities Council
Kingston Race and Equalities Council
Rights and Equality in Newham
Redbridge Equalities and Communities Council
Sutton Centre for Equalities
Waltham Forest Racial Equality Council

East of England

Cambridge Ethnic Minority Forum
Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality

East Midlands

Charnwood Equality and Human Rights
Derby REC

North West

Cheshire Halton and Warrington Racial Equality Council
Manchester Community Relations Council
Preston and Western Lancashire Racial Equality Council

South West

The Council for Racial Equality in Cornwall
Plymouth and Devon Racial Equality Council
Wiltshire Racial Equality Council

West Midlands

East Staffordshire Rights and Equality Council
Rights and Equality Sandwell
Warwickshire Racial Equality Partnership

South East

Herts Equality Council
Kent Equality and Cohesion Council
Milton Keynes Equality Council
Alliance for Cohesion and Racial Equality

Yorkshire and Humberside

Equality Leeds
York Racial Equality Network


Central Scotland Equality Council
Edinburgh and the Lothians Regional Equality Council
Fairness Race Awareness and Equality Fife
Grampian Regional Equality Council


Rights Equality First
Swansea Bay Regional Equality Council
SEWREC South East Wales Racial Equality Council
The Valleys Regional Equality Council

North East


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