The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is to carry out a statutory inquiry to identify actions to address racial inequalities highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The EHRC said the Covid-19 outbreak has shone a light on long-standing, structural race inequality in Britain, and raised serious issues that have yet to be fully answered.
The body will use its legal powers to undertake the inquiry and build on their previously published Roadmap to Race Equality.
It called for a government-wide strategy to address long-standing racial inequalities in all areas of life, focusing on education, employment, health, housing and criminal justice.
Describing it as “just a first step”, the EHRC said that the in-depth analysis would help to develop clear, evidence-based recommendations.
The inquiry will take into account issues and opportunities in England, Scotland and Wales.
David Isaac, EHRC Chair, said: “Now is a once in a generation opportunity to tackle long-standing entrenched racial inequalities. We intend to use our statutory powers to address the loss of lives and livelihoods of people from different ethnic minorities.
“Only by taking focused action to tackle race inequality across Britain will we become a fair country in which every individual can reach their full potential. Everyone must live and work together in order to create a strong economy and a cohesive society.
“This inquiry is part of our long-term strategic approach to tackle the structural inequalities that the coronavirus pandemic has laid bare. This is an important step towards ensuring that the deep-rooted inequality faced by ethnic minorities is meaningfully addressed as we rebuild.”
The first step of the process will see the EHRC meet race equality leaders to discuss their proposals for the inquiry.
EHRC work, which is ongoing, has highlighted a disproportionate number of ethnic minority groups living in substandard accommodation, as well as a need to improve the immigration system and access to healthcare, employment and education.
Deep-rooted issues identified in the Healing a Divided Britain report, the EHRC said, have been “thrown into sharp focus and exacerbated” by the pandemic.
The terms of the inquiry setting out the detail will be published in the coming weeks.