Published: 05 Apr 2016
England's most disadvantaged groups have fallen further behind the rest of the population and risk being increasingly locked out of opportunities, according to a major new report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Is England Fairer is an in-depth analysis of how people’s equality and human rights have been realised in practice over the past five years. It reveals that the gap has grown between the life chances of a range of groups - homeless people, those with learning disabilities, Gypsy, Roma and Travellers, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. It also shows how inequality has become more entrenched.
People from these groups often suffer multiple disadvantages including poor outcomes in educational attainment and employment, and barriers to accessing healthcare. There are several factors that may contribute to this, including deprivation, social invisibility, stigma and stereotyping. The situation is exacerbated by a lack of evidence on the experiences of these groups, which makes it difficult to analyse and address the problem. This also hides them and their issues from the decision-makers who set priorities and shape services.
This risks creating greater unfairness and social exclusion as well as putting community cohesion in jeopardy. This is why we are asking Government and statutory bodies to work together to address the key findings in the report and provide more intensive support for these most disadvantaged groups.
Key findings from the report include:
Gypsies, Roma and Travellers
- Gypsies, Roma or Travellers are considerably over-represented in prison - 4% of the prison population identified as Gypsy, Roma or Traveller, whereas only 0.1% of the population identified as such in the 2011 census.
- A significantly lower percentage of Gypsy and Roma children (13.8%) and Traveller children (17.5%) achieved the GCSE threshold in 2012/13 compared with other White children (60.3%).
- Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children are still four to five times more likely to be excluded from school than the national average, even despite a significant fall in numbers. There were 35.8 exclusions of children from these communities per 1,000 pupils in England - a decrease of 13.9 cases per 1,000 compared with previous years.
- Homeless people used hospital services between three and six times more often than the general population. Recent data shows A&E visits per homeless person are four times higher than for the general public.
- The average age of death for homeless men was 48 years compared with 74 years for the general population. For homeless women it was 43 years compared to 80 for the general population.
People with learning disabilities
- At GCSE level, children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) continue to underperform compared to their peers. Children with SEN were less likely to achieve at least five A*-C GCSEs (23.4%) compared to children without SEN (70.4%).
- People with learning disabilities have a higher rate of admission to hospital - 76 admissions for every 1,000 adults compared to 15 admissions per 1,000 adults without learning disabilities.
- Mortality rates for people with moderate to severe learning disabilities are three times higher than the general population.
Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers
- There are 2.64 million migrant workers who are legally allowed to work in the UK, concentrated in low-wage, low-skill work. Low-skilled occupations account for 45% of all employment in the UK, with migrants accounting for approximately 16% of all those in low-skilled work (2.1million).
- Migrant workers can be particularly vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination because their migrant status is not protected under the Equality Act 2010. This mean they would be unable to seek justice through the courts where they have experienced discrimination because of their migrant status.
Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive at the Equality and Human Rights Commission said:
'These figures are a wake-up call for the Government to improve life chances for all so that no one is to be left behind. They reveal how severe are the inequalities faced by some of the most disadvantaged groups in our society. Our society is failing people in vulnerable situations and needs to do more to ensure everyone has better life chances. If we don’t, we risk perpetuating a two-tier society where some people are locked out or cut further adrift, damaging community cohesion and increasing social isolation.'