BMENational Statement on the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities Report

Our overall feeling on reading the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (or Sewell) Report is of disappointment and disbelief. The report is at heart incoherent and inconsistent.

Disappointment that it views racism through a particular political lens, and disappointment that it adds nothing to the debate about tackling racism, and takes a discredited and uninformed view of the problems in our society.

Disbelief as it cherry-picks data to suit an ideological narrative, and, dismisses the lived experience of many. At a time of a global pandemic which has disproportionately claimed the lives of thousands of people from minority backgrounds, it downplays and minimises the effect of structural and institutional racism which has already been acknowledged as having a significant negative impact in the previous Macpherson,  Lammy, Marmot, Williams reviews.

Although the report was commissioned following the Black Lives Matter Protests and the racial inequalities highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic it does not make any useful contribution to these issues.

The Sewell Report dismisses the racial inequalities highlighted by the Black Lives Matter protests, doesn’t include the brutal evidence of the Covid-19 pandemic, and denies that the UK still has systems rigged against people from ethnic minoritiesThis is not the experience of BMENational and its members and indeed our mission is to improve the lives of our communities and tackle major housing inequalities including:

  • One in three homeless households are from ethnic minority backgrounds compared to one in seven from the general population;
  • 2% of White British households are overcrowded compared with 24% of Bangladeshi households; 18% of Pakistani households and 16% of Black African households;
  • Ethnic minority households are more likely to live in older and fuel poor accommodation, and in flats and terraced homes in the most deprived neighbourhoods and worst living environments, including lack of access to green space. 
  • The poverty rate for ethnic minorities groups is almost twice that for the White population and has been exacerbated by welfare reforms that penalise young people and larger households, through the use of benefit caps.

The report only touches on housing slightly and (as is usual) examines home ownership rather than looking at wider tenures of social and private rented sector housing where inequalities are also exacerbated. However, our view has always been that ethnic minority households are under-concentrated in home ownership generally, and outright home ownership specifically. This puts them at a disadvantage in terms of wealth and asset accumulation, in society where unprecedented house price growth has fuelled family wealth.

Of critical importance to us is what is missing. Nothing on building cohesive communities and breaking down concentrations of deprivation, nothing on the housing crisis and market failure, one mention of the Grenfell Tower tragedy (and nothing about the racial disparities highlighted there), inclusive leadership and governance is only mentioned in passing in terms of the education sector, and there is nothing there about organisations reflecting the communities that they serve. 

We believe that this report could have been a call to action to help tackle major racial injustices in a society that is ready for change. Instead it retreats into denial and is a missed opportunity.

We are hosting a webinar on the Sewell Report jointly with the Housing Diversity Network on 4th May at 2pm. Link to book is here.

Housing Rights Newsletter

How new immigration rules affect housing and benefits

The first newsletter of 2021 from the CIH and BMENational focuses on the immigration rule changes and how they affect housing and benefits, especially for European nationals in the UK. In the meantime, the countdown has begun for European nationals who still need to apply for settled status – our clock tells you how much time they have left.

The newsletter brings you articles and news items on:

  • How the new immigration rules affect social landlords
  • Will rough sleepers be penalised under the new immigration rules?
  • Risks loom for European nationals as the June 30th deadline approaches
  • “No recourse” is still in the news
  • More on Windrush and the hostile environment
  • Post-Brexit immigration rules – other key changes
  • Growing problems with asylum seeker accommodation
  • Other news.

BMENational Statement on Charter Flight Deportations

We note with dismay the plans by the Home Office to continue with mass deportations to Jamaica.

With a continuing health emergency caused by the Covid-19 pandemic we believe that lives are at risk, as the UK government are prepared to deport men, women and children to countries where they have few, if any, links having lived the majority of their lives in this country, also placing them at risk of destitution.

We are concerned that the government is going ahead with the deportations despite the findings of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review which highlighted the an institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation at the Home Office. This is now backed up by the Equality Human Rights Commission report on the development and implementation of hostile environment policies which concluded that the Home Office broke equality law and these policies impacted disproportionally upon the Windrush generation and black people validly coming into this country in later years.

We believe that the deportation plans are another area where the systemic and individualised barriers experienced by our residents lead to failure to effectively integrate race equality goals into public policy.

We will continue with our work on providing homes for our communities, building vibrant neighbourhoods and tackling homelessness.

As leaders in our sector, we believe that it is our responsibility to call out discrimination and bias especially where it affects community cohesion. We urge the government to listen to its own reviews and stop further deportations.

Cym D’Souza

Chair BMENational


About BMENational:

BME National is a collective of over 45 housing associations working in some of the most disadvantaged parts of the country. Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) housing associations were set up in the 1970s and now manage over 65,000 homes. BME National also provides a consultative and promotional platform for BME housing issues. BME National aims to highlight the contribution BME housing associations make to successful, vibrant and integrated communities while promoting equality and diversity in the delivery of housing and support services.

Innisfree are recruiting two board members

Innisfree’s story started in 1985 when the unmet housing needs of the Irish communities in London prompted some activists to set up a new housing association. Today, nearly 60% of our tenants have an Irish background though when we let our homes, we are open to the diverse community of Londoners in need of genuinely affordable housing.

Closing date is 23rd November.