Reporting on issues of race in independent inquiries

Verita Team

Published 1 December 2015

Mental Health Advisory Group

Premila Trivedi is a member of Verita’s Mental Health Advisory Group

Since joining Verita’s mental health (MH) advisory group as a BME service user, I have been keen to find out more about the ways in which issues of race are explored and reported in independent investigations within MH, and the impact this may have on MH policy and practice.

While some investigations and inquires have (to a greater or lesser degree) identified race, racial stereotyping and/or racism as important contributory factors to serious untoward incidents, it was not until 2003 and the publication of the Blofeld Inquiry into the restraint-related death of David Rocky Bennett, that race seriously became part of the mainstream MH agenda. Blofeld was forthright in his criticism of MH services, stating that ‘at present people from the black and minority ethnic communities are not getting the service they are entitled to’, identifying institutionalised racism as a contributory factor and calling on the Department of Health to urgently address the issues.

In response, the government introduced the 5 year Delivering Race Equality programme (DRE), a brilliant opportunity to officially validate and focus on the concerns that many of us from BME communities have been actively campaigning about for the past 30-40years!   By courageously raising issues of race in MH services, the Blofeld Inquiry initiated a much-needed, proactive, national focus.

This example highlights that the ways in which independent inquiries consider and report on issues of race (and racism), are crucially important and can provide a precious opportunity to boldly touch on controversial issues and offer impactful recommendations to meaningfully address them.

In July, Theresa May ordered an independent review into deaths and serious incidents in police custody.   I suspect this review will not be able to avoid issues of race and I await its publication and government responses with curiosity.

Reporting on issues of race in independent inquiries
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