Select Committee on Scottish Affairs Minutes of Evidence



Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-39)

MR DANIEL SILVERSTONE, MS LIESL CENTENERA, MR DHARMENDRA KANANI, MR MICK CONBOY, MS KATHLEEN BOLT AND MS LUCY CHAPMAN

WEDNESDAY 20 MARCH 2002

  20. I think so. There is a point that I would like to pursue. How far do you think that the local Racial Equality Councils have been able to take account of what you accept is the changing nature of the ethnic minority communities in Scotland? I refer to the ongoing change of nature.
  (Mr Kanani) It varies considerably. In terms of the Racial Equality Councils that we fund, they differ in size, competence, ability and scope. So there have been varying levels of involvement with some of these issues. For example, in Fife there is a pro-active approach to looking at some of these issues, whereas in other areas there has not been the capacity to engage them. In terms of some of the work that we are carrying out with the RECs and the modernising programme, we are looking at how we are able to assess whether that is happening. We are also putting into place mechanisms for that to happen. In terms of the quality assurance framework that we use with the RECs, we want to assure ourselves that the question that you have raised can be answered. At the moment I cannot say with confidence that that is what is happening across the board in Scotland. That is one of the issues for us in terms of our funding and what the outcomes are as a result of that. It is piecemeal, patchy and non-consistent, but attempts have been made whether from writing a letter through to aiding much more effectively at local level.

Mr Lyons

  21. On asylum seekers, do you take a view on where they should be located in Scotland? There is a concentration of them in Glasgow. Are other councils making a bid for them?
  (Mr Kanani) We do not take a view in specific terms about where people should be located. We have a view about issues of treatment, access to services and the manner in which the location takes place. It should happen so that it takes full account of the needs of the communities. In the dispersal process and in the allocation of housing, we recommend that housing departments are mindful of the need to ensure that communities can co-exist safely, effectively and that there is access to services. When you have almost ready-made communities being implanted into an area, Glasgow sees something up to 10,000 to 12,000 new arrivals located in two areas. One was done with great success and the other without success. There is change happening now. The one that was successful was Castlemilk where there is a real sense of community and active participation from residents who want to participate in ensuring that a safe environment is created. There was an active voluntary sector there and a lot of preparation took place there. However, in Sighthill we felt that there was an ill-prepared approach. There was not sufficient time taken to appreciate the impact in terms of the meshing of communities that are under hardship already and what will happen in such a situation. Our advice has been to ensure that public services talk to each other more effectively when preparing for the arrival of asylum seekers, that the voluntary sector is geared up to deal with residents and tenants associations. In terms of the immediate needs of communities in terms of language, health and other such matters we advise that there is effective access to those at a local level. Our approach is to ensure that anything that happens in regard to access to public services is done in a non-discriminatory fashion. In relation to services delivered to asylum seekers the Race Relations Act applies.

  22. Are you happy that eventually Sighthill will become as good as Castlemilk?
  (Mr Kanani) We have seen a great deal of progress. I have seen the attempts that have been made and that multi-agency group that has been established is working really effectively now. I believe there will be a matter of sustainability and public funding. Yesterday in Glasgow I was speaking at an event, at a youth conference. I spoke to individuals who were noting the bill in terms of interpreting and translation work. That will be significant. As the dispersal programme hits other areas, like Fife, Angus and Dumbarton, there will be an issue of how those services connect and are effectively delivered. Part of the role of the Refugee Integration Forum is to ensure that that learning is facilitated across the board.

Mr Robertson

  23. I am concerned about something that you said. I wonder whether you are keeping up to date. You say that there are two areas in Glasgow. In my area, Anniesland, there have been quite a few asylum seekers. I have not heard anything from the CRE. Although we do not have a large ethnic community, we have a lot of asylum seekers. I am concerned that you are concentrating on the easy places rather than widening your scope.
  (Mr Kanani) I do not want you to feel that that is the case at all. I want to reassure you that that is not our approach or our intention. It is unfortunate that you feel that way. I should have said that those two areas have been in the political spotlight. That does not deny that there are different and new communities across the board in different parts of Scotland, of course. The point that I made to Mr Sarwar was that at a local level that which we fund is to enable that connection that you are talking about. Our role is to catalyse change and to give effective guidance and support across the board, but our funding through Section 44 is to enable that connection that you are talking about at a local level. Hopefully, the approach of modernising the work that we do will ensure that we do not hear complaints or issues of concern that you are raising to us today about the lack of connection, the lack of awareness of what is happening at a local level and that what we fund is much more connected to some of the activities and concerns that we have.

Mr Weir

  24. We touched on this point earlier. Your memorandum shows that in 1999 to 2000 the Scottish police recorded 2,242 racist incidents, an increase of 43 per cent over the previous year. What might be categorised as a "racist incident"? Following an earlier discussion are those incidents that are reported to the police or are they incidents that go to court? Are these incidents that are racially aggravated or do you look below that and see whether minor breaches of the peace have a racial element to them? Often there can be a racial element to something that is not racist in the first instance. Can you tell the Committee to what you ascribe that rise? Are there figures for 2000 to 2001 and do they show a continued rise?
  (Mr Kanani) There are a lot of questions in that. I shall try to remember them. In terms of the definition, it is not one that we have devised, but it is used by the police. It is consistent with what was accepted by the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. That is an incident that is perceived to be racist by the individual concerned or by any party around the particular incident. It is a broad-ranging and inclusive definition. In terms of such incidents, they are reported incidents. They are not the outcomes of those incidents at all. Yes, we are seeing a year by year increase of the reporting of racial incidents to the police. One thing that is also changing, and to come out of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, is that the police in Scotland are looking at remote reporting. Because of the issue of community constables and taking account of the fact that some communities will not approach the police directly, some organisations have remote reporting in place. In Edinburgh, for example, there is an organisation that is participating, as well as the REC, on communities being able to report cases at a community-based venue. Obviously, that will change the complexion of cases that are coming forward and the nature of the reporting that takes place. In terms of the outcomes of actual cases I am not sure that we have the information with us.
  (Mr Conboy) At the moment the justice monitoring system is not hooked up sufficiently to demonstrate that these cases are reported as racist incidents and it cannot track them through to the outcome. Each individual part of the system is beginning the process of monitoring. We are told that we will have that information.

Mr Carmichael

  25. I do not understand that. What is the problem?
  (Mr Conboy) At the moment, as they have for a number of years, the police record racist incidents. Up to the point when they put in a report to the Procurator Fiscal they can say exactly what they are dealing with. I believe that they would admit that the information that they have has improved over the years, particularly over the past two or three years. Once a case goes from the police to the fiscal service, you are into another part of the system and that has a different monitoring system. Prior to 1995 there was no monitoring because there was not a specific offence of aggravated harassment. That is now in place. The final piece of that jigsaw is the court system itself—the disposal of cases. The Scottish Executive has just finished a piece of work of research that has looked as the disposal of cases. That is now beginning to show that in 1999/2000, out of the 500 cases brought, they can give the number of acquittals and convictions.

Mr Weir

  26. Following on from that, on the monitoring system in the fiscal service, you say that they monitor those that are racially aggravated. From your answer it seems that the system that the police use for reported incidents is different from the system that the fiscal service used for likely racially aggravated cases. You will have a skewed view of how that works. I know from my own experience, where there are minor breaches of the peace, that one will find in the course of the evidence that there are elements of racial incidents. I am a little concerned that we are getting into the situation where the fiscal service and the police are not marrying up the reporting procedures and not getting a clear picture of how these cases are proceeding to the courts. Is everybody using the same criteria for racist incidents?
  (Mr Conboy) The starting point would be the collective number of racist incidents reported. Racist incidents are not necessarily going to have a criminal case eventually attached to them. It may be that the incident is not a matter that the police can take to the courts. Theirs is the largest figure—the number of reported racist incidents. That figure will gradually reduce in a similar way to the cases with which we deal. We have a large number of inquiries at one end and a smaller one in relation to settlement at tribunal. The courts are geared for criminal prosecutions. The police report what they see as a case that has sufficient evidence to take criminal action on and that is then prosecuted by the fiscal service. They do marry up at that end. I suppose the key difficulty is that they are not necessarily tracking the same cases. The cases in any one year that are reported to the fiscal service will not necessarily be the same cases that will be disposed of through the courts in that year. You can only have a mosaic impression.

  Mr Weir: I appreciate that, but my concern is whether we are in a position where an incident is reported to the police as having a racial element, but if that case is not necessarily labelled as racially aggravated, it may fall through the figures. So we shall have a false picture of the number that reach the courts.

Chairman

  27. Are we receiving a false picture of the numbers that are being dealt with? Suddenly the racist tag falls off a case and so the conviction does not appear to be for a racially motivated incident. Are we losing figures at the court end, not because they are not prosecuted, but because the tag is no longer attached?
  (Mr Conboy) As far as the Lord Advocate is concerned, it is not what should happen; it is sufficiency of evidence. The fiscal service have been told that they will proceed with the racially motivated element. One of our concerns, prior to the introduction of the crime and disorder provisions, was that the tagging of a breach of the peace charge simply was not working because at a certain stage there would be an element of horse-trading and the element of racial motivation would be dropped. So we were not able to convict on that. That is the instruction from the Lord Advocate that if there is evidence that they should state it in the case throughout.

Mr Sarwar

  28. I appreciate how the system works. In 1999/2000 there were 2,242 racial incidents reported to the police. How many of them were prosecuted and how many were convicted?
  (Mr Conboy) For a number of years that has been the position. We need a better, more informed picture of what happens. It will not do the victim any good at all, or communities at large, to know that there has been that number of cases reported. They need to know what happens and we need the message to be sent to society that such offences are unacceptable and will be dealt with as speedily and as effectively as possible. Unfortunately, as far as I appreciate the statistical system, we still do not have the matching of racist incidents with ultimate outcomes.

Mr Joyce

  29. I worked for a time for the CRE, so I have a positive view of the organisation. On the subject of statistics and matching up specific cases, can you say something about how Scottish agencies, councils, the Executive, government agencies and UK-wide agencies perform in terms of a massively better statistical basis to help policy formulation?
  (Mr Kanani) I shall attempt to answer that. One of the key issues, as you will know from your time with the Commission for Racial Equality in Scotland is that we do not have effective information on the life chances and opportunities of ethnic minorities. Ethnic minorities being brought into a structure, as part of the planning and positive element, does not exist in a sophisticated way in Scotland or in Britain. That is the bottom line. That structure is not built in. That is a job of work that will be required to be developed as a result of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act. A key aspect of that is monitoring. If you have an impact system you will be able to understand what is happening. In Scotland, in terms of our parliamentary agenda, one of the key things that we established was that the Executive, in its key role, had to start collecting information and ensuring that the framework for ethnic monitoring was in place. The Executive has signed up to a programme of research in terms of finding out about communities across Scotland. It is a three-year study or a two-year study that will look at the different aspects and experiences of the minority communities and it will build up a database. Through that process it will enable systems to be built. At the moment, if any of you were to ask me what is the education outturn of ethnic minorities in Scotland I could not tell you because it does not exist. If you asked me what the labour market experiences are, I could not tell you, with any sophistication, what is happening. In terms of the health service, again I could not tell you. There is a real job of work to be done. It involves very high commitment but low delivery, unfortunately.

Mr Weir

  30. I did not receive an answer to the last part of my question about the figures for 2000/2001. Is there still that increase that you talked about earlier?
  (Mr Kanani) The increase in reporting racial incidents, yes, absolutely. There continues to be a consistent increase in terms of reported racial incidents to the police.

Mr Lyons

  31. In your introduction you mentioned the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2001 and its impact. What has been its impact or is it too early to say?
  (Mr Kanani) It is not too early to say. The impact has been quite considerable. It has happened internally within the organisation and externally. Perhaps I may touch upon both aspects. I would like Daniel to say a little about how the organisation is preparing for it. In terms of the Scottish context, the reason why we needed to have extra capacity was simply to do with delivering the Race Relations (Amendment) Act. That was the subject of a clear bid to the Home Office to enable ourselves to meet the demands that would be placed and are being placed on us by the public sector and sectors across Scotland in advice, guidance, seminars, discussions around what the responsibilities are. Internally, one of the key challenges has been as a result of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act. The duties apply to us as an organisation as well. We have had to ensure that we have been fully prepared. We have had to lead by example. In terms of our staff, we have had to engage in a programme of training to ensure that staff are fully prepared for enabling the public sector to understand its responsibilities, and to acquire different types of skills in terms of negotiating change, and a different type of approach in working in the public sector. Part of the amendment Act requires a certain set of steps to be taken in specific terms that we need to understand for the sector concerned. It is all very well for us to say that it is their responsibility, but we want to ensure that we ground what we do in the context of others so that they have a better understanding of how it works. We have a job of work to ensure that the staff have the skills developed to deliver some of these responsibilities. We have had to look at how we work with our resources. Daniel can touch upon that. Externally some of the key issues have been a heightened expectation of us as an organisation to be out there much more. In any one month I speak publicly about six or seven times on the Race Relations (Amendment) Act or its implications. Clearly, we have to ensure that we engage not only within the public sector but also within the voluntary sector. A key element is that the voluntary sector understands the role and plays its part. We also have to ensure that we work with the private sector because large private sector companies will be brought into the net of the law if they are providing and delivering public service or delivering public functions. Externally the demand is great and expectations are high. We need to be able to be geared up to deliver guidance. Last year we issued a draft code of practice in response to statutory duties and consultation which is now coming to a conclusion. We shall issue a full code. Scotland has a very different time line. In Scotland we are in the process of drafting the specific code in relation to specific duties that will go out for consultation in May. There will be a three-month consultation period followed by a full code. There is a lot of work to do in the interim.
  (Mr Silverstone) It is nice to have this opportunity to appear in front of you. The question has been answered comprehensively, but perhaps I can touch on a few areas that have not been spelled out. In a nutshell, the Race Relations (Amendment) Act is the biggest challenge that the CRE has faced in 25 years. My mandate as chief executive—I started work in December—is essentially to re-engineer the organisation to deliver the Act. The Home Secretary has graciously given us an additional 3 million this year to grow to deliver the Act. When one considers that the Act applies to 45,000 public bodies and that we have grown to 240 staff, with a budget of just under 20 million, clearly a huge amount of business and professional input is required to get the vast majority of our statutory work undertaken by second, third and fourth-party agencies. This may come back to some of the other questions mentioned about tracking and information. We are working extremely hard with other agencies like the Audit Commission and OFSTED<fu3>, to whom the Act also applies, to mainstream the Act into the components, so that, for example, schools, who regularly complain about being regulated to death, will hopefully not feel that the public duties that will apply to them will not be an additional bureaucratic and regulatory burden. We hope that they will emerge, with advice from the LEAs<fu4> and the revised and special framework from OFSTED. Among other things, that will track cradle to grave performance, for example exclusion and attendance rates by race. We will have a virtual circle, where we will be able to undertake our new inspection and regulatory functions, collating and collecting the information that we receive from other bodies. I would suggest that less than 1 per cent of our own effort will be devoted to direct contact with the 45,000 public bodies to quality assure their work. The vast bulk of the effort will be geared at other statutory bodies essentially doing our work for us. It is a huge and challenging agenda. In a sense it comes back to what we were discussing earlier on about the amended Act signifying a real step change, both in the law and in the way we will need to do our business. All the things that were implicit in the 1976 Act are now explicit. This is the awful mainstreaming word which appears regularly in our public statements, and indeed in the document you have in front of you today. We will have to try and think of a better word for it. The challenge that our Chair, Gurbux Singh has set is to find ways of making the amended Acts within the public service improve the broad quality of public service, both for the black multi-ethnic community but also for all sectors of public services. That is a huge challenge, both for and for the other people.

<fo3> Office for Standards in Education.<fo4> Local Education Authorities.

Ann McKechin

  32. Mr Silverstone, do you think the enforcement of the new Race Relations Act will increase racist complaints in the short term or in the long term or do you think they will decrease as a result of the implementation of the Act?
  (Mr Silverstone) I think it is probably too early to tell. I am certainly not aware of evidence on one side or the other on that, beyond what you have heard in terms of Scotland. I think we probably anticipated, maybe on a rather knee-jerk basis, last year that there will be an explosion of cases. That has not followed through. There may be a number of reasons for that, one of which is that the Act itself does not become operational until 31 May and it will probably be some time after that before institutions, particularly individuals and communities, become aware of their new rights. Secondly, I think all public bodies will, from 31 May, be required to develop their own basic work discrimination schemes. We are very clear that this is not a one science fits all project. The issues of proportionality, of the service nature of the organisations and the community that they serve are important. So I would also hope that the very fact that public bodies are now required explicitly to set goals, standards, timetables and to consult, very often in ways and with particular communities they may have ignored in the past, will mean that through that process itself the number of old style complaints we have been dealing with for our first 25 years may be coming down. One of my other particular interests as the new Chief Executive is to fashion or re-fashion our approach to complainant aid, where currently we have seen scores of thousands of requests, only a tiny handful of which we can actually resource and deal with, to become a much more strategic tool, so that we are more effectively run than I believe we have been in recent years and are actually testing areas of public life and areas of law in a more strategic and focussed way than I think has been the case in the past.
  (Mr Kanani) May I add to what my colleague has said, in that, in terms of the spirit of the amendment to the Act and where it came from, one of the key issues was about public service and obviously public service delivery and the quality of that service delivery. Clearly, through the code and through the guidance that we have established, we should see a step change in the way, as has been explained, in which the services are devised and delivered. I think what we are seeing through the amendment is great scope for complaints. We cannot underestimate that there will be much greater scope for complaints because activities which were not hitherto covered will be covered: stops and searches, the activities of the police, the activity of the public sector across the board in terms of service delivery will be covered. I do not think we can underestimate the scope of casework that will emerge. For us, as Daniel has said, we will be ensuring that those who should be doing the work are doing the work, so that there will be expertise transfer, as it were, and so that other agencies that should be taking on board cases are doing those cases. We as an organisation should be main-streaming and mainlining some of that work. I think we can underestimate the scope of individuals who will now see the fact that they actually have an expectation or a right not to be discriminated against in a variety of public sectors and public scenarios.

Mr Carmichael

  33. We have touched on this already and so it may be simply a question of asking if you have anything further to add. Your own memorandum made reference to the number of asylum seekers, what you term diverse refugee communities, in Scotland. What strategies do you have in place to ensure that new ethnic communities in Scotland do become fully integrated and what encouragement is given to these groups properly to participate in the wider community? I suppose, in terms of the first part, I do not want you to repeat what we have already heard but, if you have anything new to say, this would be your chance to say it.
  (Mr Kanani) Perhaps I could ask my colleague, Kathleen Bolt, if she wants to add anything to what we have said in terms of the work. I think the vehicle for delivery will not be for us but for others to ensure that they do the job effectively and the Refugee Integration Forum I think is going to be a key vehicle to enable public sector bodies to devise effective groups of access and satisfaction on services.
  (Ms Bolt) Additionally, on the casework side, I think that we have a job to do to make ourselves accessible and available to the new communities that are now living in Scotland. As part of a lead strategy, we would intend to make refugees as aware of their rights in relation to discrimination as the more established communities. We obviously want the more established communities to become more aware as well and to that extent we are, for example, at present devising a leaflet which we will translate into a number of refugee and ethnic minority languages people are using in Scotland at the moment. The other thing that I think we want to do in terms of accessibility is to build capacity within the voluntary sector. That is assisting in terms of refugees, to make them more aware of their rights, so that they can transfer that expertise and pass that information on. I think we have a job to be more accessible and also I think we need to build capacity between the black and ethnic minority voluntary sector, who are dealing directly with refugees, to ensure that they can make the link for us.

  34. And the encouragement to groups properly to participate? Perhaps that is a question for Mr Conboy.
  (Mr Kanani) I can answer that in terms clearly again of part of the approach that agencies across the board should be taking, which is to ensure that they enable effective consultation across the board. Our role will be to ensure that they understand that role, particularly in relation to racial equality. So, in terms of participation, we would like to see that happen and we will advise on how that should happen at a local level.

Mr Weir

  35. Just following what Kathleen was saying, and this may be an impossible question to answer: do you find amongst asylum seeker communities, because of their status, a greater reluctance to come forward and complain of racism than in established communities in Scotland?
  (Ms Bolt) For asylum seekers who are newly arrived, their primary concern is their asylum application and achieving refugee status. Really that is their main worry. Issues to do with access to legal services in that area are matters that the Refugee Integration Forum has been highlighting since dispersal. There are practitioner groups in Glasgow in particular which are working to look at how people access services and how we relate to the various agencies that help Scottish communities. So I think that when people first arrive their main concern is to obtain refugee status. People do not necessarily come forward with complaints about discrimination. What they are coming forward with, from my experience of working in the Commission, are complaints of racial harassment and increasingly anyone who one is dealing in relation to an asylum claim would also come and report incidents of racial harassment as well. That is my experience, that that is an issue, that they had to come forward because of their experience. I think, as people achieve refugee status, as people achieve an exceptional need to remain and settle into our communities here, then they will start to come forward again with complaints of discrimination because I think we will see a whole new range of issues that arise with people tyring to get employment and access to health. People are accessing health services but a whole lot of work has been done there in terms of equity of services. I think that is when we start to see people needing to be aware of their rights and they may start to come forward if they have not received what they should have received.

  36. You said earlier you were looking at translating leaflets into some of the languages of the newly arrived asylum seekers. I am wondering what other steps you are taking to ensure that people who arrive as asylum seekers are aware that they do already have rights in respect of race relations, even though they are still awaiting an asylum application to be determined.
  (Ms Bolt) This is the first step. We have built capacity within the team in CRE and this is now something that we are able to address. To be honest, I think asylum seekers need information just when they arrive. One of the things in relation to asylum claims is an issue about whether they understand sufficiently the need to get expert legal advice as soon as they arrive in Scotland. We have issues of people who sought advice down south, then were dispersed to Glasgow, have had solicitors there, their case moves on and they lose touch. There are all sorts of issues and these are things that are most pressing. Then, added to that, I think it certainly makes sense to make people aware of their rights under the Race Relations Act.
  (Mr Kanani) The priority for us is to apply or encourage the notion of priority to do that by others, because we as an agency are not able to do that. It would not be our role to do that. It is about making sure those agencies which are receiving new entrants into the country are fully aware of what is required of them to ensure the safety, security and information needs of those communities.

Mr Lazarowicz

  37. Are there language and interpreting services to cover all parts of Scotland? Do these services provide adequate coverage of the languages of refugees and asylum seekers?
  (Mr Kanani) There is not adequate scope and coverage across Scotland. There are varying levels of capacity across Scotland. You have a service in Glasgow that is funded by an internal marketing system where departments bid into and fund a system.

  38. I am interested to know what is the factual position. Glasgow, I think, has one and also in Edinburgh and the Lothians, for example. Where else are these services and where are their gaps?
  (Mr Kanani) The gaps are in the majority of the areas of Scotland. You have a service in Glasgow and one in Edinburgh and a service, I think, in Fife and no effective service in Dundee, but in other areas there is hardly anything or nothing at all. We have engaged with the Scottish Executive to establish a strategy for interpreting and translation work. This was launched a week ago by Iain Gray, the Minister of Social Justice. It sets core standards for the delivery of interpreting and translation services, which is a starting point. There was also an announcement that 60,000 is being allocated to look at the development of these services across Scotland so that we have the scope and capacity across the board. It is piecemeal and we do not have effective coverage across Scotland, no; it is only in the urban centres.

  39. Again, to be clear, you are talking, as I understand it, not just about language services for asylum seekers and refugees but for any multiethnic community languages at all?
  (Mr Kanani) Absolutely. It is a huge priority and something needs to be sorted out pretty quickly.

 


 
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