Why ethnicity matters for local authority action on poverty: summary

Document type
Nicholl, Anna; Naidoo, Roshi
Joseph Rowntree Foundation
Date of publication
13 October 2014
Minority Groups, Poverty Alleviation Welfare Benefits and Financial Inclusion
Social welfare
Material type

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Thirteen million people in the UK are living in poverty, more than half of whom are in a working family. Demand for public services is increasing while public bodies face budget cuts unprecedented in modern times. Alongside this, racism is on the rise. Poverty is already higher among all ethnic minority groups than among white British people. The research found that racism and discrimination remains one of the main barriers to ethnic minority progression.

Neither racism nor poverty is a new issue and many local authorities have been working to address both over many decades. Given the depth of budget cuts, what scope do they have to respond? By exploring the issues in more detail, the research sheds new light on the complex relationships between poverty and ethnicity and the role of local government. The way local authorities behave as employers, what they expect of employers in their supply chains, the direction of local economic strategies, the quality of services and their relationships with different ethnic groups, all impact on poverty. The research reveals why even good policy and practice can be ineffective if it is delivered without a proper understanding of and relationship with the people affected. It highlights how softer issues such as workplace culture, social networks, how we care for our loved ones and relationships between ethnic groups, have a much greater bearing on outcomes than we might have imagined.

The researchers put forward proposals on how local authorities could improve policy and practice. Local authorities will be pleased that these need not involve increased spend. On the contrary, they should mean better targeting of limited resources to achieve better outcomes.

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