Ethnicity and equality

'Minority Ethnic Community’ is an umbrella term that covers many groups of people.  It groups together all people whether they are new to the UK or have lived here all their life, and whether they are first, second or third (etc) generation immigrants.

The needs of people from different communities are diverse, but there are certain themes common to all people from different minority backgrounds and ethnic groups in the UK.

Minority ethnic communities face substantial inequalities and discrimination in employment, education, health and social services.  There is also a higher prevalence of learning disabilities in South Asian communities; this is a statistic which has been linked to high levels of material and social deprivation. 


The issues

People with learning disabilities from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities continue, along with their families, to experience inequalities in health and social care despite various efforts to improve engagement.

There is still much to be done to address remaining issues of discrimination and racism. People from newly arrived communities do not always feel welcomed. Some people with learning disabilities may be neglected within their own communities as issues of shame and stigma persist.

In the wider community, they often also face what is called “double discrimination”, being offered insufficient and inappropriate services. This may be caused by:

  • policy and services which are not always culturally sensitive
  • wrong assumptions about what certain ethnic groups value
  • language barriers
  • discrimination

Around 20- 25% of young people currently in transition from children’s to adult services are from BME communities, which means that there is an increasing proportion of people from BME communities in the overall numbers of people with learning disabilities.
Of this increase it is known that the figures of those with more profound and multiple disabilities are increasing fastest.


The law is clear and forthright on local statutory responsibilities regarding race and disability – people with learning disabilities from BME communities are clearly an important part of these responsibilities that fall to local statutory agencies.

The Equality Act 2010 came into force on 6th April 2011.  It simplifies and puts together previous laws to better protect people from discrimination on grounds that include race, disability and/or gender.
The Act places the following general duties on public authorities:

  • to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation, and other prohibited conduct
  • to advance equality of opportunities
  • to foster good relations.

The Act states that this should involve having due regard for minimising or if possible removing, disadvantages suffered, taking relevant steps to meet any new or different needs, and encouraging participation in public life or in other activities. There are also more specific duties, including:


  • publishing information to demonstrate compliance with the general equality duty
  • preparing and publishing equality objectives
  • providing details of engagement undertaken in pursuance of these duties.

Public bodies can be brought to account before the courts if they do not comply with equality legislation. In 2012, the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities produced Learning Difficulties and Ethnicity, an Updated Framework, making recommendations for how the goal of equal access to services is reached for people of all ethnicities.