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Black and Ethnic Minorities (BME)

Advice, Diversity, Written by Real World October 30, 2008

Black and Ethnic Minorities (BME)


The Race Relations Act was introduced in 1976 (RRA) and makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on the grounds of nationality, colour, or ethnic, racial, or national group. The Race Directive, and Equal Treatment Framework Directive,

which aim to harmonise race equality legislation across the EU, have also been incorporated into UK law. There are four types of race discrimination: direct, indirect, victimisation and harassment. Companies should promote a culture of respect

and dignity of all employees, and should also think inclusively when devising policies and procedures to offer different things to suit differing needs.

Over the next ten years, ethnic minorities will account for more than half the growth in the working age population. If racial discrimination continues to inhibit the employment

prospects of these groups, economic integration will be retarded and social cohesion further compromised. Government statistics show students from minority ethnic groups are less likely than their white peers to achieve top marks in their degrees. Experience of

discrimination, and fears it might be repeated, appear to affect self belief and thus ability to succeed, the study suggested. New research for the Higher Education Academy and the Equality Challenge Unit attempted to understand an issue with no easy explanation or answers. Director of research and evaluation at the academy, Professor Lee Harvey, said the study revealed that attainment differences are not a ‘simple function of ethnicity and

gender, but are affected by rather more complex factors’.


Danny Lafayette, who is part of the Home Office’s Violent Crime Unit, was recently named Civil Servant of the Year at the GG2 Leadership and Diversity Awards for successfully engaging with diverse communities as policy advisor on knife crime, and also for his work as chair of The NETWORK, a support group for ethnic minority staff at the department. Since joining the Home Office in 1982, Danny has seen diversity issues moving from the sidelines to centre stage. After attending a Positive Action programme he became more aware of diversity issues.  ‘I began to understand how these issues were being addressed by the department and I became more involved,’ he explains. ‘In the early ‘90s myself and some colleagues formed an informal group as a BME support organisation, but real changes happened because of two things; a new government coming in with Labour in 1997, and the new Home Secretary wanting to address things like the murder of Stephen Lawrence. It was our department’s responsibility to demonstrate we were tackling the problem of race discrimination both inside our own department, and in the wider community. That’s when we set up The Network.’

Despite the progress that has been made, Danny says there is still much to do.  ‘Diversity issues are still important because we now have legislation in place ensuring people’s rights and valuing them within the workplace.  Linked to the legislation is the moral argument, because all people should be treated equally, and then there is the business argument; simply a diverse workforce is good for business. With diversity you get more creative learning and more creative styles at work, it just enhances your business.  Now we are going through the credit crunch and a time of great difficulty, diversity will help see us through any challenges we may have.’

For Danny, all areas of diversity are important, but BME is his passion.  ‘I wanted to get on to repay the sacrifices my mother made for me, and now I want to make a difference for other black and minority ethnic people. I feel very strongly that what you give you get back in many ways, so I want to support communities and individuals.  We are a lot further along the road than we were in 1999.  If you look at recruitment in the Home Office we have certainly increased representation of BME communities, but we must not become complacent.’

But Danny is hopeful for the future – he cites the Fast Stream programme which has  around 30 BME undergraduates coming into the department and paid to work to understand home office policy as a real force for change (see our case study with a Fast Stream participant on page 27) – but believes more can still be done. ‘We have to change the perception of the Home Office being a stagnant old government department of old Etonians or Oxbridge graduates with people still using quill pens,’ he says. ‘That Jurassic age is well and truly over. Young people can actually help shape and change the work place and the policies we deliver on it. If you had said to me when I started I could be working on a team tackling knife crime, having an impact on the community I come from, I would have laughed, but here I am working with police officers helping them address knife crime and engaging with community groups doing good work on the ground. We need new young people with new eyes and new ears, new ideas and understanding of issues, to come in and help shape the future. We have to impress on them all that they can make a difference.’


The majority of the UK population of 5.9 million people is white (92 per cent). The remaining 4.6 million (or 7.9 per cent) people belong to other ethnic groups.

  • White 54 million (92 per cent)
  • Black 1.15 million (2 per cent)

Of these the largest group is Black Caribbean, followed by Black African

  • Mixed race 680,000 (1.2 per cent)

Of these the largest group is Indian, followed by Pakistani and then Bangladeshi

  • Chinese 250,000 (0.4 per cent)
  • Other ethnic groups 240,000 (0.4 per cent)

(Source: ONS)

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