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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Race Equality Scheme


On April 2 2001 the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 came into force, this Act extends the scope of the 1976 Race Relations Act to include all functions of all public authorities. In addition, the 2000 Act places a positive, enforceable General Duty on most major public authorities, including Royal Colleges to 'have due regard in carrying out their functions to':

  • eliminate unlawful racial discrimination;
  • promote equality of opportunity; and
  • promote good relations between persons of different racial groups

Some listed authorities must also comply with specific duties that set out the arrangements for meeting the requirements of the General Duty. These authorities, which do not include the Royal College, are required to prepare and publish a race equality scheme that identifies those public functions, policies and procedures that are relevant to the General Duty and to then set out the arrangements for:

  1. the assessment and consultation on the impact of these functions and policies on the promotion of race equality;
  2. monitoring the functions and policies for any adverse impact on the promotion of race equality;
  3. publishing the results of: assessments; consultations and monitoring for any adverse impact on the promotion of race equality;
  4. ensuring Black and minority ethnic groups have access to information and to services provided by the College; and
  5. training staff on issues relevant to the duty to promote race equality.

Those authorities listed for the specific duties must publish their scheme by 31st May 2002. The Commission for Racial Equality have issued guidance for public authorities on meeting the General Duty in England and Wales and for 'non-devolved' public authorities in Scotland. This guidance, which is a statutory code of practice, states that a Race Equality Scheme is 'a set of minimum standards to meet the General Duty'.

Although the Royal College is not listed in the Act as having specific duties it regards having a Race Equality Scheme as good practice in meeting the General Duty and therefore intends to utilise the same framework in setting out its own assessment and action plan.

What the College has done so far

The Royal College has a long-standing commitment to addressing race equality having first established a special committee to review the issues in 1987. The most recent assessment of College functions and policies resulted in Council report CR92 'Report of the Ethnic Issues Project Group' (February 2001) which made the following ten recommendations:

  1. The College should undertake a systematic review of its structures to determine whether or not there is evidence of institutional racism
  2. The review should specifically include scrutiny of the College's role in the appointment procedures for psychiatrists, including the short-listing procedure
  3. The College should not tolerate any racially discriminatory behaviour from its members
  4. Dialogue should continue with all relevant user groups, including Black user groups
  5. All psychiatrists should be trained to be culturally sensitive in their interactions with people and culturally competent in their therapies
  6. Particular effort should be made to meet the training expectations of psychiatrists on the Overseas Doctors' Training Scheme in the UK and Ireland
  7. Members of the College should be made aware of the possibility of discrimination or abuse when applying mental health legislation to Black and other ethnic minorities
  8. Psychiatrists should work with their employing authorities to ensure equal access and appropriate services for all in the local community
  9. Epidemiological studies should include Black and other ethnic minorities in a community study
  10. An Ethnic Issues Committee should be established

The College has already enacted the first and last of these i.e. establishment of an Ethnic Issues Committee and commissioning an external audit of College structures. As one of its first activities, the Ethnic Issues Committee has reviewed and updated the recommendations in CR92. The external audit of the College is nearing completion of its first year and findings from this and the review work undertaken by the committee have informed the development of this Race Equality Scheme.

Next steps - developing the race equality scheme

The CRE statutory code states:

"Public authorities must list, in their Race Equality Scheme, the functions and policies (including their proposed policies) that are relevant to their performance of the general duty to promote race equality". (4.8 page 22)

In determining which functions and policies are relevant the College should address two questions:

  1. Whether there is already evidence that the function or policy is affecting some racial groups differently; and
  2. Whether there is any public concern that the function or policy in question is causing discrimination.

The College has taken the recommendations in CR92 as the starting point for developing its Race Equality Scheme, as it both provides the most recent evidence and raises the issues that have caused most public concern. The adapted recommendations have then been subject to assessment and action planning using the framework of the specific duties as follows:

  • Assessment of impact on racial equality
  • Access to information and services
  • Training and education for staff, members and trainees
  • Arrangements for Consultation
  • Arrangements for Monitoring and publishing the results

The College has endorsed this scheme at the highest level of the organisation and included within it a public statement of intent regarding its commitment to race equality and the key recommendations that it intends to prioritise in the coming year.

  1. 'Racial group' means a group of people defined by their race, colour, nationality (including citizenship), ethnic or national origins.
  2. Institutional racism is defined in the Macpherson report as: "The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviours which amount to discrimination, through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantages minority ethnic people."
  3. 'Functions' means the full range of a public authority's duties and powers, 'polices' means the formal and informal decisions about how a public authority carries out its duties and uses its powers. (CRE. Statutory Code).
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