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Policy Watch

An eye on policy changes in Ireland, the UK and beyond

Structural Racism | Poverty and Food Security | England's Policing Bill and the Right to Protest

General  |  Fri Apr 02 2021

Structural racism

The Institute for Race Relations roundly criticised the findings in the government-commissioned Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report for ignoring structural racism, instead focusing solely on racism linked to individual prejudice and bigotry. An opinion piece in the British Medical Journal called the Commission's report a "missed opportunity" that "will lead to a worsening of systemic inequalities" and dismissed in particular its assertions around the reasons for the differential impact of Covid-19 amongst people from BAME groups, saying

there is no evidence of 'genetic risk factors' for covid-19 as the report claims. There is now sufficient evidence that ethnic disparities in covid-19 are partly due to high-risk public facing jobs, living conditions such as multigenerational households, poverty, chronic co-morbidities, as well as racial discrimination and the effects of structural racism such as residential segregation.

An independent review found that over a third of people stopped by the PSNI under the UK’s terrorism legislation in 2019, and three-quarters of those detained, were not white -- despite non-whites making up less than 2% of Northern Ireland’s population. The Detail reported that the PSNI have one the UK's third highest rates of using stop and search but, at 6%, the lowest arrest rate.

Poverty and food security

A government-commissioned report from the British Academy on the long-term societal impacts of COVID-19, based on findings from hundreds of research projects, has predicted a decade marred by the "long shadow" of Covid-19 on mental and physical health, societal inequality and community unity. It said the pandemic has exposed deep public policy flaws that must be rectified going forward.

In England, the District Councils' Network reported on the various strains facing households. They said that nine out of ten councils had seen a rise in local food bank use over the past year, with even more than that reporting a rise in requests for help with council tax. With regards to homeless household requests for temporary accommodation, 85% reported a rise over the last year. Two out of three councils reported a rise in family disputes requiring mediation.

New official statistics released in Scotland indicated that child poverty had risen last year, even before the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Figures for 2019-20 showed that 26% of Scottish children were living in poverty, up from 23% in 2018-19.

England's policing bill and the right to protest

Concern about the policing bill currently being rushed through Parliament continued. More than 150 human rights organisations as well as 60 MPs and peers signed a letter to ministers calling for constraints on protests due to the pandemic to be lifted. The bill has passed its second reading in Parliament. At Committee stage, amendments can be proposed before its third reading and vote.

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