BME London Landlords (BMELL) Statement on The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (Sewell) Report

As BME London Landlords (BMELL) we reject The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (The Sewell Report March 2021) and fundamentally object to the way the forward, findings and recommendations of this report are presented in a way to create a counter-narrative that suggests the impact of racism on Black, Asian and other ethnic communities has been overstated. Deeply concerning are the comparisons made between different ethnicities to emphasize material and academic progress made by some over others with an analysis of data that is not academically robust which makes too many generalised statements. 

BMELL concur with BME National (our trade body of the BME Social Housing Sector) statement on the Sewell Report, where they say:-

“Our overall feeling on reading the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (or Sewell) Report is of disappointment and disbelief. The report is at heart incoherent and inconsistent.”

As BME housing organisations founded on the basis of addressing structural inequality and racism in the delivery of social housing. Our continued mission is to improve the lives of our communities and tackle major housing inequalities. The report only touches on housing slightly and examines home ownership rather than looking at wider tenures of social and private rented sector housing where our implicit remit working to address race disparities in housing such as: 

  • –  One in three homeless households are from ethnic minority backgrounds compared to one in seven from the general population;
  • –  2% of White British households are overcrowded compared with 24% of Bangladeshi households; 18% of Pakistani households and 16% of Black African households;
  • –  Ethnic minority households are more likely to live in older and fuel poor accommodation, and in flats and terraced homes in the most deprived neighbourhoods and worst living environments, including lack of access to green space.
  • –  The poverty rate for ethnic minorities groups is almost twice that for the White population and has been exacerbated by welfare reforms that penalise young people and larger households, through the use of benefit caps. 

BMELL is dismayed after reading the The Sewell Report, given the previous year of revelations regarding disparities in health inequalities suffered by Black, Asian and minority communities in the UK  as result of the COVID 19 Pandemic, the global outpouring of solidarity with the Black Lives Matters movement which has seen a clamour and call for systemic change with so many progressive statements of intent made by so many organisations recognising their systems and processes with regard to diversity and inclusion need addressing.

The most recent cross party parliamentary report in Nov 2020 on Black people, racism and human rights stated damningly “A succession of reports in recent years, have investigated, and found, structural racial inequalities in state institutions and processes, from the Home Office to the Youth Justice System.” Citing Marmot, Lammy, Parker, McGregor Smith, Williams and MacPherson reports identifying the overarching issue being the Government failure as being a lack of implementation of the recommendations in these reports.

The Sewell report includes two passing references to the Windrush Scandal. The March 2020 Windrush Lessons Learned Review (Wendy Williams report) identifies and uses evidence to identify clear links between institutional ignorance and the forced illegal deportation of British citizens. The Wendy Williams report draws links between ethnicity and poor treatment. The Commission included members of the Government’s Cross-Government Windrush Working Group. It is unclear why the scandal is not used or examined as evidence in the Commission’s study, when the Wendy Williams investigation and report contains so much of relevance to the Commission’s given brief, and to the conclusions that they draw on the existence or otherwise of institutional or systemic bias.

BMELL recognises the work commissioned by the Stuart Hall Foundation in its parallel Race Report, which collated and examined the preceding thirteen race and equality reports  between 1981 and 2018, noting that of the 589 different recommendations in those reports very few have been taken up.

Baroness Lawerence has said of The Sewell Report“Once you start covering it up it is giving the green light to racists. You imagine what’s going to happen come tomorrow. What’s going to happen on our streets with our young people?”.

To further quote, BME National’s statementon The Sewell Report, “Of critical importance to us is what is missing. Nothing on building cohesive communities and breaking down concentrations of deprivation, nothing on the housing crisis and market failure, only one mention of the Grenfell Tower tragedy (and nothing about the racial disparities highlighted there), inclusive leadership and governance is only mentioned in passing in terms of the education sector, and there is nothing there about organisations reflecting the communities that they serve. 

We believe that this report could have been a call to action to help tackle major racial injustices in a society that is ready for change. Instead it retreats into denial and is a missed opportunity.

Even though the report fails to encourage wider collaborative action to tackle the scourge of racial injustice, BME London Landlords using our community anchor position in the social housing sector are committed and fully determined to take on this challenge. BMELL as part of its programme plan of activities are launching an Anti-Racism initiative with other partners to challenge the social housing sector to action on Anti Racism. For more information contact BME London Landlords at info@bmelondon.org or visit our website bmelondon.org.