In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests in summer 2020, the Prime Minister announced an inquiry. The cross-governmental ‘Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities’, led by Number 10 adviser Munira Mirza, would look into discrimination against black, Asian and minority ethnic people in education, health and criminal justice. Over the past 40 years, numerous other inquiries have looked at racial inequalities across British society. 

This new review, written by Stephen D. Ashe for the Stuart Hall Foundation in partnership with Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE), with additional support from Hollick Family Foundation, summarises the findings of these previous inquiries. The aim, in setting out the story so far, is to ensure that any new inquiry does not simply go over old ground; but builds on what went before. As Sue Woodford-Hollick, SHF patron said, “We look forward to the day when actions speak louder than words.”

Read the report

Download the SHF Race Report 2021 (PDF, 577 KB).

Key points

  • Review reveals 589 different recommendations made by 13 previous race and inequality reports and commissions between 1981 and 2017
  • Concerns about the impact of an “inappropriate” schools curriculum on the performance of black (West Indian) pupils date back to 1981 
  • After several decades of initiatives, inequalities persist across all areas of life: health, education, housing, employment, poverty, crime and justice 
  • Racial disparities in some areas are growing: for example, the disproportionate representation of ethnic minority people in the youth justice system has increased; from 26% of 15-17s in 2008, to 43% in 2018 
  • Many recommendations with regard to data-led and evidence-based approaches to decision-making, and the need for new accountability mechanisms, have yet to be taken up 
  • Concerns around the under-representation of black, Asian and ethnic minority people in senior leadership roles are a key theme


After reading the SHF Race Report, Lola Young, Baroness Young of Hornsey OBE, said: 

‘The Report does us a great service by pointing out how successive governments have failed to address racism in the systems and organisations that shape and drive public service provision. Setting up more commissions and inquiries is a distraction, a sleight of hand to divert our attention away from the reality – that politicians lack the capacity and will to transform our institutions into bodies that serve and protect all citizens.’

David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, also responded, saying: 

“This report is an invaluable contribution to the struggle for racial justice. Its brilliance is found in its simplicity, documenting the countless recommendations on race between 1981 and 2017 that have been kicked into the long grass. It is a sad reminder that, for too long, empty words have been uttered to absorb our energy, in the hope that we will sit down and forget about the burning injustices these recommendations are meant to eliminate. This report is a reminder that we’ve had the conversation. Now is the time for action.”

Sue Woodford-Hollick OBE, patron of the Stuart Hall Foundation and trustee of the Hollick Family Foundation, said, 

“The Hollick Family Foundation is proud to be among the supporters of this excellent analysis. The Report is a timely reminder, not only of the many hundreds of recommendations on race that have never been implemented, but also of how much urgent action is still needed to achieve racial equality and justice in the UK. We look forward to the day when actions speak louder than words.”

The Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE) is an ESRC funded research centre providing theoretically informed, empirically grounded and policy-relevant research on ethnic inequalities in the UK. They bring together expertise from a range of disciplines including sociology, demography, economics, history, geography, political science, cultural studies and seek to communicate their research to a wide range of audiences.

Follow CoDE on Twitter @ethnicityUK