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Jubilee Debt Campaign statement in response to the Sewell report 

Jubilee Debt Campaign is proud to add our name to this letter, coordinated by the Runnymede Trust, which condemns the recent report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (the Sewell report), and we call for immediate action to be taken on the issues raised.  

The report itself is an example of the institutional racism that exists in the UK. 

The report promotes a dangerous narrativethat structural racism is not a key factor in inequalities in the UK and downplays the impact of colonialism in creating the huge levels of inequality we see in the global economy today 

Jubilee Debt Campaign exists to tackle the root causes of unjust debt. There is ample evidence to show that structural inequalities, and systemic barriers mean that some groups in the UK are disproportionately affected by debt – and ethnic minorities are faring the worst [1]. 

During the pandemic this pattern has become increasingly starkA recent piece from the Institute of Public Policy research (IPPR), showed that Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups at greater risk of problem debt since Covid-19 | IPPR [2]. Statistics which point to the impacts of the pandemic on income are equally as evident of the structural nature of this issue. The Runnymede Trust found that Bangladeshi (43%) followed by Black African groups (38%) were the most likely to report the loss of some income since COVID-19, compared with 21% of Black Caribbean groups and 22% of white British people.3  

The problem is structural and institutional. 

The sections of the Sewell report discussing teaching around colonialism are deeply pernicious. The inequalities we see in the global economy today are not the result of happenstance but of long running exploitation by many now economically rich parts of the world of economically less well-off countries. Unless we acknowledge and tackle this historical legacy, we cannot tackle the huge debt burdens that have built up as a result. In a previous report we have detailed the impact of colonialism on the debt burden of Ghana [4], which now stands at more than $22 billion.  

Since the Sewell report was published a number of people and groups have come forward to dispute the genesis, findings and accuracy of the report, including contributors whose evidence was selectively cited[5], editing out sections that pointed to structural racism.

Over 250 health professionals have written that structural racism has long been recognised as a significant driver of health inequalities [6]. The charity Turn2Us, who also work on debt issues have stated:

 “There are deep-rooted economic inequalities in our society. At Turn2us we have seen this from our own data.  You are more likely to experience financial hardship if you are Black. You are more likely to have lost your job in the coronavirus pandemic if you are Bangladeshi. You are more likely to experience deep poverty if you are Pakistani. This is not a coincidence; this is clearly a long-term endemic structural and institutional problem.”[7]

Instead of denying the huge body of evidence that points to structural racism and the multiple impacts this has on people’s lives we should be naming it and tackling it.  

If you would like to get involved in this issue you can also add your name to the open letter, read and understand more about the links between inequalitycolonialism and debt, and join the calls on social media to #RejectTheReport.  

[1] https://metro.co.uk/2019/11/30/the-racial-debt-gap-in-the-uk-disproportionately-affects-black-and-asian-households-11229187/?ito=cbshare

[2] https://www.ippr.org/blog/minority-ethnic-groups-face-greater-problem-debt-risk-since-covid-19

[3] https://www.runnymedetrust.org/uploads/Runnymede%20Covid19%20Survey%20report%20v3.pdf

[4] https://jubileedebt.org.uk/countries-in-crisis/ghana-debt-crisis-rooted-colonialism

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/apr/07/sewell-report-structural-racism-research

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/04/sewell-report-contradicts-evidence-on-race-and-health-inequality

[7] https://www.civilsociety.co.uk/news/charities-hit-back-at-frankly-disturbing-sewell-race-report.html

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