Advocating for Data: A Summary

London Plus, ROTA and HEAR Equality and Human Rights Network working in partnership to organise the advocating for data event

A discussion forum on the issues relating to data that represents London’s diverse communities

On Wednesday 29th May, London Plus, ROTA and HEAR Equality and Human Rights Network delivered the Advocating for Data event to raise awareness and stimulate discussion around the need for more detailed data on London’s ethnic groups.

The 2011 census tells us that over half Londoners do not define themselves as white British. This figure includes people from a range of different backgrounds and ethnicities. However, reporting of ethnic disparities usually focus on outcomes for white people compared to everyone else.

Many people from civil society organisations agree there is not enough detailed information to adequately represent the many different communities that are resident in London.

The Advocating for Data event was the first in a partnership developed by the three organisations in recognition that there is currently a need to advocate for more nuanced data on ethnicity, and to discuss what steps can be taken to start this process.

We profiled case studies demonstrating how the standardised ethnic categories which are used across the Government and NHS are too general. This highlighted how not having detailed data on London’s ethnic groups can impact negatively on funding resources being allocated appropriately. The case studies were from:

BME Health Forum

The BME Health Forum is a unique and well-established partnership between voluntary and community organisations, healthcare providers, commissioners, and local authorities.

They aim to reduce health inequalities for people from deprived communities and ensure that health and social care policies are informed by the views of local communities

Nafsika Thalassis outlined key health indicators reported by ethnic backgrounds, and gaps in coverage of specific groups. She also talked through the BME health forum’s work to devise a new way of collecting data about people’s ethnic background, and the categories they include in monitoring forms.

Council for Somali Organisations

The Council of Somali Organisations provides infrastructure support to Somali led community organisations, as well as a platform to address issues affecting the Somali community in London at a regional and national level.

Kahiye Alim gave an overview of the history of migration from Somalia to the UK. Currently, the UK is home to the largest Somali community in Europe, with an estimated 98,000 Somali-born immigrants residing in the UK in 2016.

He also outlined issues with the questions used in the census, with people either identifying as Somali or Somalilander. Responses from the Somali community were written under all of the main ethnic categories, highlighting the lack of a clear category for people to define themselves.

The Traveller Movement

The Traveller Movement (TM) is an award winning leading national charity committed to the fulfilment of human rights for ethnic minority Gypsy Roma and Traveller people. Promoting forward-looking strategies to advance equality, civic engagement, inclusion and community cohesion.

Jenni Berlin discussed the work they were doing to increase the use of classifications for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people in surveys and equalities monitoring forms. She pointed out that only around one in five datasets published as part of the Race Disparity Audit included classifications for these groups, and most of these were in education.

Despite the NHS not including the categories in their data dictionaries, health outcomes for Gypsies, Roma & Travellers are particularly poor. 42% of Gypsies and Travellers are affected by a long-term condition, as opposed to 18% of the general population.

Breakout groups and panel discussions

In the breakout discussions attendees were asked to reflect on the problems with current data collection methods and potential solutions. The discussions brought up a number of issues which were addressed to the panel.

The panel included the case study representatives and:

  • Hannah Goulding – GLA
  • Klara Skrivankova – Trust for London
  • Christine Goodall – HEAR
  • Natasha Codiroli Mcmaster – London Plus
  • Andy Gregg – Race on the Agenda (chair)

Questions centred around the barriers that prevent statutory services from collecting more detailed information and how these could be overcome. One suggestion was that more focus should be given by data collectors on building relationships with communities to create trust in data collection. Could this lead to more detailed data on London’s ethnic groups?

The sharing of data from smaller on-the-ground organisations, with potentially very rich information not collected in larger surveys, was also discussed.

There are a number of gaps in data that are not widely known about, for example, homelessness numbers and information on individuals. However, there are many barriers to consider here, including ethical considerations and the need to safely share data.

The issues of self-classification were also discussed, with people sharing experiences of trialling this approach. The question of how many categories are too many, or too few, remains up for debate. However, the event gave us a starting point for more in-depth and coordinated action on these issues.

If you have any questions about the Advocating for Data event or are interested in getting in touch about our plans for a follow up event, please contact Natasha or Leah at London Plus.