While the number of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people in Devon has grown in recent years, the numbers are still relatively small and fluctuate with patterns in migration (although it must be stressed that not all BAME people are recent migrants or have parents who were migrants and therefore will have British heritage beyond two or three generations).
As global travel has become easier, 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. Devon remains a predominantly White area, with only 5.1% of BAME 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 defined ‘institutional racism’ and changed the shape of equality legislation.
Racism is unacceptable and has no place in society. We want to eliminate 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 BAME 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. Our two Gypsy and Traveller sites (Sowton and Broadclyst) are now managed by Elim Housing.
More recently, we have provided the opportunity for Children’s social workers recruited from oversees to discuss and share experiences with managers.
There are two BAME networks that staff can join: South West Peninsula BME Social Worker Group – a regional BAME group for local authority social workers across the South West including Plymouth, Torbay, Cornwall and Devon and a BAME staff network for health and social care.
Working with Devon Development Education, we are planning to host Windrush Day Celebrations at County Hall. However the first event was postponed due to the coronavirus. We hope to host this celebration on 22nd June 2021.
To support people whose first language is not English, we have published information about coronavirus in a range of Devon community languages.
In October 2020, we celebrated Black History Month by uncovering stories of people’s experiences living in Devon.
We initially responded to the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests with this article for the staff newsletter. Find out more about anti-racism activities in our November Equality Reference Group newsletter.