The reports are the outcome of a triennial project to review the state of equality and human rights in England, Scotland and Wales. They examine six areas of everyday life to assess progress towards a fairer Britain over the last three years, highlighting trends, emerging issues and the action that needs to be taken now to improve the life chances of the next generation.
Is Britain Fairer? makes a number of recommendations to Governments and other organisations to tackle the issues identified in the report and support increased equality in Great Britain. The findings will also inform EHRC’s strategic programme of work for the next three years, on which it is shortly to consult. The executive summary highlights some improvements in education, political participation and work, but the Commission also focuses on an increase in poverty, “forgotten” groups, and regressions in justice and personal security. You can find all the IBF, ISF and IWF content on our website.
There have been improvements in education, political participation and work. More children are now performing to the required standards at school, and more people from ethnic minorities are obtaining degree level qualifications and more people from disadvantaged areas are attending university. There are more women, black people and Pakistanis in employment and more people – including women – in higher pay occupations. New regulations have forced transparency about the gender pay gap, which is now decreasing. People are also getting more involved in politics and voting. More people are online, where increasingly services are provided digitally. Online activity is increasing most for disabled and older people who have previously been more excluded.
- Disabled people are finding themselves increasingly excluded from mainstream society, starting in education and continuing later in life. The disability pay gap persists and the likelihood of disabled people being in low-pay occupations has increased. Disabled people are more likely to be in poverty, they face poorer health and a lack of access to suitable housing. There has been a sharp increase in recorded disability hate crimes and disabled people experience high rates of domestic abuse and sexual assault in England and Wales.
- People from certain ethnic minorities, such as those of Indian heritage, have continued to succeed in education and at work. But those whose backgrounds are Black African, Bangladeshi and Pakistani are still the most likely to live in poverty and along with Black Caribbean people are more likely to experience severe deprivation, which is damaging their health and education and work prospects. Some ethnic minorities have poorer access to health care and higher rates of infant mortality, and black people have low trust in the criminal justice system. Gypsies, Roma and Travellers face multiple disadvantages including below-average school results, difficulties accessing healthcare, worse health and, often, low standards of housing.
- Child poverty has increased and infant mortality has risen for the first time in decades. Tax and welfare reforms continue disproportionately to impact the poorest in society, as well as some ethnic minorities, women and disabled people and they weaken the safety-net for those unable to work or stuck in low-paid or precarious work. Homelessness is also on the rise. Despite improvements in school attainment for most children, those from lower income backgrounds and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children are getting below-average school exam results and are more likely to be excluded from school, and poorer young people are less likely to go to university.
- Women’s equality has progressed significantly in some ways but there are still many factors holding women back at work, some stemming from gender stereotypes at school. Bullying and sexual harassment are widespread in the workplace and in education. Sexual and domestic violence is a persistent and growing concern which disproportionately affects women and girls.
- The Commission notes a marked backwards move in the areas of justice and personal security since the improvements it found in the 2015 review. Reductions in legal aid and changes to the legal system have led to individuals not being able to access justice. There has also been a deterioration in detention conditions, with more incidents of self-harm and assaults and with overcrowding in prisons risking prisoner safety.
For the first time as part of IBF, the Commission has made recommendations as to how Britain can be made fairer and would welcome their dissemination through social media – hence this post.
Data on religion & belief
One theme that recurs through the report is the comparative lack of reliable data on religion or belief. As the main report points out at [6.4.1], there are five centrally-monitored strands of hate-crime: race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and transgender identity. However:
“information is insufficient (or lacking altogether) for some people sharing certain protected characteristics. Generally speaking, there are far more large-scale Britain-wide data for sex than for any other protected characteristic, with a lack of information for sexual orientation, religion or belief and gender reassignment in particular” [3.6].