Ethnic monitoring is more mature

August 9, 1996

Ethnic monitoring is more sophisticated than ever, according to the University of Warwick's centre for research in ethnic relations.

Making Monitoring Work argues that the standard of ethnic monitoring has matured dramatically over the past six years. No longer "the aimless collection of statistics, ethnic monitoring" - especially by local authorities - is providing "useful management tools".

In 1990, the Local Government Chronicle, warned that "local authorities which do not keep statistics cannot evaluate how big a lie they are telling when claiming to be equal opportunity authorities".

The Warwick report adds that "passive" ethnic record-keeping is little better than no record-keeping at all, and can even be "harmful" because failure to act on the data "demotivates" staff collecting it and makes communities co-operating in the data-collection process "disillusioned".

But evidence from local authorities suggests that several "highly valuable ethnic monitoring schemes" are operating around the country.

In Brighton, the borough council has improved relations between food inspectors and ethnic minority retailers after running a scheme to identify unintentional discrimination in the treatment of ethnic minority-owned food premises.

Another scheme, in the London Borough of Islington, has tested whether there is any bias in the council's handling of noise complaints.

In Birmingham, the city council looked at the ethnic make-up of house lettings, and there are schemes looking at planning permission applications in Coventry, Leicester and Leeds.

Other schemes are expected to emerge.

The report notes that ethnic monitoring has become "a crucial step" for many local authorities towards meeting the legal requirements, under section 20 of the Race Relations Act, to provide goods, facilities and services without discrimination.

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