Call for Government to close ethnicity data gap exacerbated by Covid-19

The Evidence for Equality National Survey (EVENS) is calling on the Government to urgently tackle the ethnicity data gap amid spiralling inequalities during Covid-19 as the ONS Inclusive Data Review nears its deadline.

EVENS’ call for urgent action comes after 30 years of data collection that has resulted in minimal representation of ethnic and religious minority people in nationally funded datasets.

Backed by the NHS Race and Health Observatory, three universities and 11 campaigning VCSE organisations, including Operation Black Vote, Friends, Families and Travellers and Business in the Community, EVENS aims to counter this deficit as the UK’s first and largest survey of its kind to document the impact of Covid-19 on the lives of 17,000 ethnic and religious minority people.

Sir Simon Woolley, Director of Operation Black Vote, said: “Inclusive data is key to better understand the depth and breadth of persistent race inequality in the UK. This unique partnership with EVENS brings together interested organisations, individuals and academic institutions that deeply care about tackling the scourge of racism. Here the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts.”

Despite the value of the Census 2021, there are still crucial gaps in data on the lived experience of ethnic and religious minority people, including mental health, racism and discrimination, and the impact of Black Lives Matter and policing during the lockdowns, which EVENS aims to rectify.

Dr Nissa Finney, EVENS Lead, said: “We welcome the ONS Inclusive Data Review, and the Census is a fantastic resource as it gives us a baseline and overview of the population. But the Census doesn’t fill ethnicity data gaps. EVENS is more sensitive than the Census to the diverse and intersecting ways that people identify and asks about crucial aspects of life for ethnic and religious minority people, such as their experience of racism, mental health and financial circumstances, which the Census cannot cover.”

EVENS, which is available in 14 languages, will capture data on:

Demographic characteristics
Socioeconomic characteristics
Ethnicity and migration
Racism and discrimination
Black Lives Matter
Caring and volunteering
Social cohesion
Attitudes towards the police
EVENS also covers Jewish people and Roma, Gypsy and Traveller communities who are regularly overlooked yet have been disproportionately impacted by Covid. According to the All-Ireland Traveller Health Study 2020, the Traveller suicide rate is six times higher when compared to the general population, and accounts for approximately 11% of all Traveller deaths. Yet only five out of 79 local suicide prevention plans in England mention Gypsy and Traveller communities at all.

Sarah Sweeney, Policy and Communications Manager at Friends, Families and Travellers, said: “A number of academic studies give us a glimpse into the significant inequalities experienced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people in the UK. However, huge data gaps in the Government’s data collection means that too often these inequalities are out of sight and out of mind in key decision-making forums. We hope that the creation of large and robust datasets as part of the Census 2021, and the work of EVENS, will bring these inequalities into stark focus so that the Government can address these ethnic inequalities with the urgency they require.”

Sandra Kerr CBE, Race Director, Business in the Community, said: “We are concerned that unemployment rate gaps for 16-24 year olds are not easily accessible. The trends need to be monitored so that employers can be encouraged to target recruitment outreach and action. Covid-19 has spotlighted the disparities that exist because of structural barriers to progression. There is great potential for nuanced insight from EVENS. BITC will use EVENS data to provide insight for employers to understand the impact of Covid on their ethnically diverse employees.”


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