Posted: Sun 16th Jun 2024

Wales has a “long way to go to eradicate racism”, Senedd committee warns.

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Wales still has a long way to go to eradicate racism, a Senedd committee warned.

Jenny Rathbone led a debate on an equality committee’s report, entitled Action, not words, following an inquiry on the Welsh Government’s anti-racist Wales action plan.

Ms Rathbone, who chairs the committee, said racism remains an all-too-familiar part of the day-to-day experience of far too many Welsh citizens.

She warned governance arrangements set up under the plan, which aims to make Wales an anti-racist nation by 2030, are far too complicated and risk being overengineered.

Ms Rathbone raised concerns about access to language interpretation in the health service, with family members, including children, too often being relied on as translators.

Bullying

“It really is a breach of a person’s human rights not to have proper interpretation,” she said.

Ms Rathbone raised a Royal College of Nursing survey which found nearly half of Asian and black respondents had been bullied by colleagues, compared with 38% for white staff.

Turning to education, the Cardiff Central MS warned that many schools and colleges do not have anti-racism policies nor escalation mechanisms.

She said: “Race Council Cymru told us that many people from ethnic minority backgrounds don’t have confidence that education settings have effective policies to prevent racist bullying or micro-aggressions, and that these are dealt with effectively when they do occur.”

Ms Rathbone called for a consistent, pan-Wales approach to reporting anti-racist incidents in education similar to the Datix Cymru reporting system in the NHS.

‘Structural racism’

Altaf Hussain, for the Conservatives, told the chamber Wales is among the most tolerant nations but, sadly, racism still exists.

“It is not the overt kind that is prevalent in our nation; it is the more covert structural racism,” he said, adding that the hidden nature of structural racism makes it difficult to tackle.

Mr Hussain, who represents South Wales West, warned that only a tiny percentage of teachers are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

“Last year, only 0.2 per cent of the newly-qualified teachers were black,” he said. “Just 44 out of the nearly 1,500 newly-qualified teachers had a BAME background.

“How can we possibly hope to put an end to racism, discrimination and, ultimately, hate crime via education and celebrations of diversity if our teachers are not representative?”

‘’Beg, steal and borrow’

Sioned Williams, Plaid Cymru’s shadow social justice secretary, warned of an “action gap”, saying progress on race-based prejudice and inequality has been too slow.

She said witnesses flagged funding as a barrier, quoting Ceri Harris, Betsi Cadwaladr health board’s head of equality, as saying she has had to beg, steal and borrow for initiatives.

Turning to criminal justice, Ms Williams said people from ethnic minority backgrounds are over-represented at all levels of the system.

She said: “In 2021, 51 out of every 10,000 black people in Wales were in prison, compared to 14 white people, and more black people were also under the care of probation services.

“The length of sentences is also longer for black people than white defendants. In the same way, the limited data available confirm high levels of disproportionality in the use of stop and search by Welsh police forces.”

‘Racist framework’

Jane Dodds warned people from ethnic minority backgrounds continue to face disparities in housing, education, employment, health and justice despite pockets of progress.

The Mid and West Wales MS welcomed the ambition of the anti-racist action plan, stressing that it needs to “dismantle Wales’ racist framework”.

Ms Dodds said: “Complacency remains the enemy of progress and the committee’s report highlights the formidable challenges that the Welsh Government needs to surmount.”

The Lib Dems’ leader in Wales criticised ministers’ response to recommendations, accusing the Welsh Government of appearing to abdicate its role in improving strategic equality plans.

She added: “By rejecting the need for concrete timelines and binding commitments, the government further undermines confidence and risks allowing this blight to fester.”

Unacceptable

John Griffiths focused his contribution on the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma community.

Warning their voices too often go unheard, the Labour backbencher stressed the need to combat discrimination against all sections of society in Wales.

Mr Griffiths, who represents Newport East, raised the children’s commissioner’s concerns about an unacceptable level of bullying faced by Gypsy and Traveller children.

He told the Senedd: “The level of exclusions is way beyond what we see for the rest of the population. That community is not represented amongst teaching staff

Mr Griffiths raised concerns about a lack of any spending from a Welsh Government pot specifically for sites for the Gypsy, Traveller community in the last financial year.

‘Priority’

Responding to the debate on June 12, Lesley Griffiths said significant structural foundations have been laid for long-term change and tangible progress has been made.

The social justice secretary told the chamber a refreshed anti-racist Wales plan will be published this year, with goals and actions spanning the whole of government.

Ms Griffiths pointed out that Wales was the first UK nation to make the teaching of black, Asian and minority ethnic histories mandatory.

She added that the Welsh Government is also considering the recommendations of the children’s commissioner’s report which put a spotlight on racism in secondary schools.

In closing, Ms Griffiths said: “I’m committed to tackling systemic and cultural racism in all forms as a priority. What we need to do is absolutely use every lever available. We all need to take a leading role in eradicating racism here in Wales.”

By Chris Haines, ICNN Senedd reporter



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