While the number of ethnic minority people in Devon has grown in recent years, the numbers are still relatively low and fluctuate with patterns in migration (although it must be stressed that not all ethnic minority people are recent migrants or have parents who were migrants).
The UK as a whole has become more ethnically diverse. The proportion of people identifying as White British in England and Wales decreased from 87.4% in 2001 to 80.5% in 2011. The majority, 87%, of the usual resident population of England and Wales in 2011 were born in the UK, and 13% (7.5 million) were born outside the UK. In England, adults from a Bangladeshi and Pakistani background, primarily those in the older age groups (65+), were the most likely not to speak English well or at all. Women were more likely than men to have poor English proficiency, and this was most pronounced among Pakistani and Bangladeshi adults. Regardless of ability to speak English, around 1 in every 13 people in England and Wales aged three and over had a main language other than English. Polish was the most common language after English with 1% of the population reporting it as their main language.
Devon remains a predominantly White area, with only 5.1% of ethnic minority people (including ‘White other’) reported in the 2011 Census. However it is likely this figure is more in the region of 8 to 10% for some parts of Devon (2017).
Sometimes decisions can be made, and actions taken, which unintentionally affect certain groups of people in a negative way, this is often because of a lack of understanding of the needs and aspirations of minority communities, sometimes resulting from prejudice and stereotyping.
The result may lead to a lack of opportunity, difficulty in accessing services or a failure to have a need identified. This was the main finding of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry which changed the shape of equality law and defined ‘institutional racism’.
We want to avoid institutional racism alongside all forms of institutional discrimination. Our community is becoming increasingly diverse and like other public authorities, we are here to serve all the people of Devon – from all cultures, national and ethnic backgrounds.
Some initiatives around racial equality and inclusion:
We supported the setting up of Grapevine – an online social networking and consultation opportunity for people from different cultures living in Devon (although no longer running, it brought many people together and particularly helped with English Language support).
In 2013 we published a guide, Understanding Race in Devon, for foster carers and adopters on how to look after BME children (which can be useful for all kinds of care settings).
The Council also has a dedicated Gypsy and Traveller Liason Service and developed a handbook on how we manage unauthorised encampments.
More recently, we have provided the opportunity for social workers recruited from oversees to discuss and share experiences with managers. The South West Peninsula BME Social Worker Group is also a regional BME networking group for local authority social workers across the South West including Plymouth, Torbay, Cornwall and Devon.
We also continue to support Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children.