Call for Government commitment to close the ethnicity data gap exacerbated by Covid-19
By: Neil Vowles
Last updated: Thursday, 25 March 2021
The Evidence for Equality National Survey (EVENS) is calling on the Government to urgently tackle the ethnicity data gap amid spiralling inequalities during Covid-19 as the ONS Inclusive Data Review nears its deadline.
EVENS’ call for urgent action comes after 30 years of data collection that has resulted in minimal representation of ethnic and religious minority people in nationally funded datasets.
Backed by the NHS Race and Health Observatory, three universities and 11 campaigning VCSE organisations, including Operation Black Vote, Friends, Families and Travellers and Business in the Community, EVENS aims to counter this deficit as the UK’s first and largest survey of its kind to document the impact of Covid-19 on the lives of 17,000 ethnic and religious minority people.
EVENS research team member Dr Laia Becares, Senior Lecturer in Applied Social Science in the School of Education and Social Work at the University of Sussex, said: "Inclusive data – both in terms of sufficiently large samples, and relevant constructs – is key to documenting the existence of social and health inequalities and to understanding the key drivers of these inequalities so that they can be addressed with policy and interventions.
"An area where lack of data is critical is around ethnic inequalities in later life. For the general, mainly white, British population we have several data sources to facilitate our understanding of later life outcomes. However, such data are not available for older ethnic minority people. This means that policy efforts to reduce inequalities in later life and plan for the provision of health and social care are not adequately informed by evidence."
Sir Simon Woolley, Director of Operation Black Vote, said: "Inclusive data is key to better understand the depth and breadth of persistent race inequality in the UK. This unique partnership with EVENS brings together interested organisations, individuals and academic institutions that deeply care about tackling the scourge of racism. Here the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts."
Despite the value of the Census 2021, there are still crucial gaps in data on the lived experience of ethnic and religious minority people, including mental health, racism and discrimination, and the impact of Black Lives Matter and policing during the lockdowns, which EVENS aims to rectify.
Dr Nissa Finney, EVENS Lead, said: “We welcome the ONS Inclusive Data Review, and the Census is a fantastic resource as it gives us a baseline and overview of the population. But the Census doesn’t fill ethnicity data gaps. EVENS is more sensitive than the Census to the diverse and intersecting ways that people identify and asks about crucial aspects of life for ethnic and religious minority people, such as their experience of racism, mental health and financial circumstances, which the Census cannot cover.”
EVENS, which is available in 14 languages, will capture data on:
• Demographic characteristics
• Socioeconomic characteristics
• Ethnicity and migration
• Racism and discrimination
• Black Lives Matter
• Caring and volunteering
• Social cohesion
• Attitudes towards the police
EVENS also covers Jewish people and Roma, Gypsy and Traveller communities who are regularly overlooked yet have been disproportionately impacted by Covid. According to the All-Ireland Traveller Health Study 2020, the Traveller suicide rate is six times higher when compared to the general population, and accounts for approximately 11% of all Traveller deaths. Yet only five out of 79 local suicide prevention plans in England mention Gypsy and Traveller communities at all.
Sarah Sweeney, Policy and Communications Manager at Friends, Families and Travellers, said: “A number of academic studies give us a glimpse into the significant inequalities experienced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people in the UK. However, huge data gaps in the Government’s data collection means that too often these inequalities are out of sight and out of mind in key decision-making forums. We hope that the creation of large and robust datasets as part of the Census 2021, and the work of EVENS, will bring these inequalities into stark focus so that the Government can address these ethnic inequalities with the urgency they require.”
Sandra Kerr CBE, Race Director, Business in the Community, said: “We are concerned that unemployment rate gaps for 16-24 year olds are not easily accessible. The trends need to be monitored so that employers can be encouraged to target recruitment outreach and action. Covid-19 has spotlighted the disparities that exist because of structural barriers to progression. There is great potential for nuanced insight from EVENS. BITC will use EVENS data to provide insight for employers to understand the impact of Covid on their ethnically diverse employees.”
Professor James Nazroo, EVENS Co-Lead and Deputy Director of CoDE, added: “The Black Lives Matter response to the deep ethnic, race and religious inequalities that were highlighted by both the death of George Floyd and the pandemic, has raised fundamental issues and challenges for our political leaders and for public and private institutions. It also raised the possibility for change, for these inequalities to be addressed.
"But it is urgent that this momentum is not lost and that we continue to gather evidence on the extent and nature of inequality experienced by ethnic and religious minority groups in the UK, and that we mobilise this evidence to advocate for urgent change.”
On completion, the EVENS dataset will be deposited with the UK Data Service to allow researchers, policymakers, politicians, activists, third sector organisations, NGOs and campaigners to access the high-quality data to conduct their own analyses and to advocate for policy change.