We don’t need another race inequality review – the government has ignored plenty. We need action now

We have hundreds of recommendations from previous reviews that speak to the issues of the Black Lives Matter movement – we should be enacting those

Jess Phillips
Monday 15 June 2020 13:31
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Racial inequality review written on the 'back of a fag packet', says David Lammy

The government has announced a racial inequality review in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, without even a hint of embarrassment that it will likely just sit alongside all the other reviews into race and discrimination already done and ignored.

Theresa May announced a review called the Race Disparity Audit in 2016, which when completed offered little more than some data about the things that we already knew were happening. That particular review didn’t even bother with recommendations, it was in fact just an audit.

The government website for the Race Disparity Audit has some helpful “related content” links for five possible sites to read about other reviews that have been done. You can fall down a rabbit hole of reviews that link to other reviews and when you finally climb out the data will still show that discrimination in education, the workplace, housing, prisons and the board room is still as bad, but don’t worry you will have read a lot of reviews.

I am currently in a battle of reviews with the government myself. The Home Office is undertaking an internal review into how migrant victims of domestic abuse are discriminated against by our system. For the past three years there has been meeting after meeting, and data exercise after data exercise. Expert after expert has explained to the Home Office that migrant victims of domestic abuse cannot access support.

There is a really simple fix to the problem that just extends a current and existing scheme for this group to make sure that it includes all victims regardless of their status.

At the moment the Domestic Violence Destitution Scheme offers access to refuge and support for those on spousal visas for three months. All anyone has been asking for – for three years now – is that that scheme be extended from three to six months and for it to include victims on student visas, work visas, tourist visas and those whose status has been made irregular exactly because of the violence they suffer.

Currently, if you are on a work visa – and say have a job in one of our care homes – if your partner beats you, rapes you or controls your every move, you will not be able to go in to a refuge without one hell of a fight. It is a simple fix, and the government has a chance to change it with the Domestic Abuse Bill.

But – you guessed it – instead of doing a thing that will help, the government is going to review the problem we all know exists, and has already been reviewed once. Various reports have been written by the Home Affairs Committee and the Joint Committee on the Domestic Abuse Bill both reviewed this and made recommendations for action. It is utterly maddening!

Last week before I rose to my feet to ask for a simple action that would mean victims’ workplaces were covered by protective orders (like restraining orders), I was told on that same day that I shouldn’t worry about my calls for action because that day the government were announcing a review into domestic abuse in the workplace.

I guarantee you now that the review will find that women are in many cases murdered at work. It will draw on the data from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) that clearly states: 47.3 per cent of those in the survey of more than 3,000 people that said they had experienced domestic abuse had had their partner physically turn up at their workplace. More than 40 per cent said their partner “stalked [them] outside their workplace” – and around three-quarters of women who experience DV will also be targeted at work.

The review will conclude that protective orders should cover the workplace and we will have wasted 12 months finding out what we already know now and could change today.

I took part in the review and consultation into sexual harassment in the workplace and the use of nondisclosure agreements. I arranged for hundreds of people to come together and tell their stories. Select committee after select committee scrutinised the use of nondisclosure agreements. Many ministers later, still nothing has changed. Can you see a pattern here?

A review can be a very useful thing, it can bring together all of the evidence on a subject that doesn’t have an obvious path. But too often under this and previous Conservative governments, reviews have been used as checkbox proof of caring about something, but just not quite enough to do anything about it.

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We have hundreds of recommendations from previous reviews that speak to the issues of the Black Lives Matter movement: the McGregor-Smith Review, the Windrush Lessons Learned Review, the Angiolini Review. David Lammy is right when he says that we should start by enacting the recommendations of these reviews before we start reinventing the wheel.

The government has a chance this week to take action in the Domestic Abuse Bill to end the navel gazing on migrant women’s support and to extend support into our workplaces, but I am almost certain that it won’t.

Sometimes getting a review feels like a win, but this week I might wear a T-shirt that reads: “I went to Westminster and all I got was this crappy review.”

Jess Phillips is the shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding

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