The government has responded to David Lammy’s Review which was published in September. The Review highlighted key points in the criminal justice system that produce unequal outcomes for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people and made 35 recommendations to address this. The government’s response addresses each of David Lammy’s recommendations in turn as well as providing additional information about developments that will impact on this area. In this blog we look back at key points from Clinks’ briefing on the review and consider what the government’s response says about these.
“Inaction on racial and ethnic inequality must become a thing of the past. We welcome the government’s response to the Lammy Review and urge them to provide leadership. At Clinks we know that voluntary organisations are a real force for change. If we are to succeed in eradicating the discrimination experienced by black, Asian and minority ethnic people in our justice system then the knowledge and expertise of the voluntary sector must be put at the heart of future policy and practice.” – Anne Fox, CEO of Clinks
Accountability and scrutiny
We called for government to publish a clear strategy and implementation plan setting out how it will take an active approach to tackling racial bias and to establish structures to drive this forward. We argued that the voluntary sector, including specialist organisations, must have a central role in acting as a critical friend in the development of policy and as a key partner in delivering services for BAME people. We also pointed out that the ‘explain or reform’ principle which David Lammy suggested should be accepted with regards to disparities would only be meaningful if external scrutiny existed to monitor the adoption of it.
The government’s response outlines that it will set up a Race and Ethnicity Board - chaired at the level of Director General - and accountable to the Criminal Justice Board which is chaired by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, to drive progress in addressing race disparities.
The board will consider and agree the scope and timelines for the work needed to implement the other actions set out in the government’s response. Given that the government states in its response that it agrees with David Lammy that “scrutiny is the best route to fair treatment”, we suggest that in order to ensure transparency and engender trust this work plan should be published. The board will also be responsible for monitoring the identification of and progress towards addressing disparities subject to the explain or reform principle.
The response does not provide details of mechanisms for external scrutiny of this board. Clinks, BTEG and other members of the Young Review Independent Advisory Group have met with the secretary of state to discuss this. We look forward to working with his department to consider what form such structures should take.
Unpacking ‘BAME’ as a category
The Lammy Review highlighted, as the Young review and others before it, that the BAME category includes a range of distinct groups with different experiences and needs. However, data for this group is not always sufficiently disaggregated or available to cross reference with other characteristics such as faith, gender or age.
The government’s response recognises that within the BAME category there are some groups which are numerically small but potentially more likely to have significant disparities in their experiences - it highlights Gypsy, Traveller and Roma people as a group particularly at risk of this. The response states that the explain or reform principle must extend to this group and that Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service accept the advice of the prison and probation ombudsmen with regards to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller mental health and wellbeing.
The government has responded positively to David Lammy’s recommendations on improving data collection. It commits to expanding and unifying ethnicity data collection and use across the criminal justice system and including ethnicity breakdowns with appropriate granularity in statistical publications.
The response recognises that within the demographic of BAME women there are some groups that have specific need compared to the rest of the offender population. It states that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is reviewing how this vulnerable group can be best supported as part of its work on the female offender strategy.
The role of the voluntary sector and specialist BAME organisations
David Lammy recommended that the MoJ convene a working group to discuss the barriers to effective sub-contracting by Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) to small and specialist voluntary sector providers.
Clinks particularly welcomed this recommendation given that our most recent state of the sector survey showed that BAME specialist organisations were 30% more likely to be at risk of closure than other voluntary sector organisations working in criminal justice. We also suggested that improved partnership working with voluntary sector organisations, including specialist BAME organisations, would improve outcomes for other parts of the system beyond CRCs.
We therefore welcome the government widening the scope of this recommendation in their response and look forward to working with the MoJ to explore this further.
BAME children in the criminal justice system
David Lammy’s Review rightly draws particular attention to the stark disproportionality in the youth system. It recommends that the Youth Justice Board should commission and publish a full evaluation of what has been learned from the trial of its disproportionality toolkit and identify potential actions and interventions to be taken. The government response states that this is underway and that the Youth Custody Service has also been asked to investigate issues of disproportionality in youth custody and identify where reforms can be made if disparities cannot be adequately explained.
Both these actions are welcome. In youth community settings however there needs to be concerted focus on action. As we stated in our briefing it is clear that the strategy to reduce numbers within the youth justice system, while being a success overall, has failed to address racial disproportionality. There is now a need for a clear strategy, specifically targeted at how to translate the successes seen amongst the wider population of young people to the BAME population. This should be focussed on testing bespoke interventions and staff training to support improved outcomes for BAME children.
The voluntary sector, including specialist BAME organisations, should be a key partner delivering such interventions. Once evaluated these services could form the basis for changing the approach services have to BAME children in the criminal justice system.
Clinks warmly welcomes the government’s positive response to David Lammy’s recommendations and the secretary of state’s willingness to engage with the sector on the implementation of them as demonstrated by his meeting with representatives from the sector ahead of the response’s publication. We hope this signals the beginning of an ongoing dialogue between the department and the sector to ensure that change on this important issue now takes place.
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