On 2 December 2015, the Equality and Diversity Forum (EDF) Research Network and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) held a joint seminar as a first opportunity for the research community to hear about and respond to ‘Is Britain Fairer?’
The seminar was attended by 50 individuals from universities, research institutes, think tanks, government departments and NGOs. Following a presentation of ‘Is Britain Fairer?’ By Colin Douglas and Dr Verena Brähler, participants heard responses from Dr Polly Vizard and Dr Debbie Weekes-Bernard considering how the work might be of benefit to researchers from different organisations and institutes. In the following discussion, chaired by Asif Afridi, themes that emerged included:
- The data in ‘Is Britain Fairer?’ is a major resource for researchers in providing a robust evidence base drawing on national social surveys, administrative sources and qualitative evidence. Academics now have a stronger empirical base for their discussions and there is a clearer basis for assessing where policy interventions are needed.
- The greatest inequalities lie in the realm of invisibility and pressure on public funding means that there are currently risks that the data gaps will grow. Researchers and others need to point out that this has consequences in terms of hidden inequalities.
- A key outstanding challenge is to improve the evidence base and address the gaps that EHRC have identified.
- The abolition of the Citizenship Survey and changes in the child poverty indicators present challenges in developing the evidence base further.
- Some categorisations obscure differences, for example, outcomes for different ethnic groups vary significantly; equally, disability as a single category can disguise the different experiences of people with a range of disabilities.
- There are challenges around intersectional analyses connected to both lack of data and resources.
- Poverty and socio-economic inequality often cut across other inequality factors.
- Presenting different kinds of research together can give a better picture of a problem, for example, overlaying data and quantitative analysis with case studies or examples of good practice.
- Discussions with bodies such as the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, OHCHR and Equinet about what can be learned from an international perspective would be useful.
- Evidence of a problem can empower individuals in local government and institutions at local level, for example schools, to develop initiatives to bring about improvements in their area.
- The data in ‘Is Britain Fairer?’ is useful to many individuals and organisations in a small way: for example when preparing a briefing for parliamentarians, or to support a proposal at local level (for example some of the initiatives taken forward by the various Fairness Commissions that have been established around the country). It may be difficult to cite these examples to demonstrate the value of ‘Is Britain Fairer?’ but they exist and it is an important resource for individuals to use in their different struggles to improve equality and human rights.
In conclusion, Asif thanked the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at LSE for hosting the seminar. EHRC and the EDF Research Network will continue to work together to make the best use of the date in ‘Is Britain Fairer?’ and would welcome further contributions or suggestions for working in partnership. Please email Verena Brähler (firstname.lastname@example.org).