Read their comments in the newsletter here.
The latest newsletter from Greater Manchester Poverty Action focuses on the recent Social Metrics Commission report which highlights the shocking extent to which certain parts of our community are at much greater risk of poverty. The report found that nearly half of BAME UK households live in poverty and many in deep poverty, and BAME families are between two to three times more likely to be experiencing persistent poverty. Coronavirus has exposed many existing inequalities, making talk of the virus being a great leveller, affecting rich and poor alike as nonsense. GMPA asked several leading figures from Greater Manchester's Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise Sector (VCSE) to comment on the Social Metrics Commission figures and what they mean for the fight against poverty in light of the pandemic.
Read their comments in the newsletter here.
This is a Facebook post written by Steve Burton in Leicester. He has given permission for us to reproduce it here.
You’re 31, working in the clothing and textiles industry in Leicester. You live in a small 3-bedroomed terraced house with your wife, two children, your elderly parents and your 28-year old brother. Work is in a small unit in a Victorian factory that used to be a huge engineering works but was split in dozens of ramshackle units back in the 1980s. You are crammed into a tiny space with all the other workers and machines. Health and Safety at work is something for big companies, not for small firms like yours.
The toilets, that you share with two other units, are a disgrace. They are never cleaned, there is no hot water, no soap, no towels. You are expected to bring your own toilet paper, although you are strongly discouraged from any kind of break during the working day – you are expected to do that kind of thing in your own time. In the six years you have worked there, you have seen so many of your fellow workers sacked on the spot, at the bosses whim, so you know better than to even raise the subject, let alone complain about the conditions. Your boss knows he can act with impunity – most workers do not understand the complexity of workplace legislation, and it has been made clear that they face instant dismissal if they join a union.
You earn £4 an hour. Someone told you about a legal minimum wage, but you can’t ask your boss about that because he’d sack you. Your brother works cash-in-hand for a local builder, and you live in constant fear that you’re going to be found out and thrown in jail – not least because you don’t know who would look after your parents. Your wife’s part-time cleaning job has disappeared, and she is not eligible for any government money. You live from pay packet to pay packet, just managing to scape by each week. There is never enough to save, never has been.
Before lockdown, you could take your family to the temple at the weekends, meet up with family and friends, share food, support each other, but you can’t do that in lockdown. You are terrified that you will pick up the virus and take it home to your parents – your mum is diabetic, your dad has never been well since he recovered from TB.
You friends in a richer part of town have been furloughed, which means they are being paid twice as much as you for not going to work. You think your boss is getting furlough money for you too, but you don’t really understand the scheme – you are still working 9 or 10 hours a day for the same pay. When you tried to ask other people about it, you were told that if you don’t like it here, you should go home.
The current spike in Leicester is your fault. Although you stay at home when you’re not working, along with the rest of your family, following the rules as well as you can, it’s your fault. You are to blame. No one has told you what you should be doing differently, or how you would survive if you weren’t working, but never mind all that – you are to blame. It’s all your fault.
This article about the higher death toll from COVID-19 among the descendants of slaves in Brazil illustrates again that countries that took part in the transporting and enslaving of Africans have, as a major legacy, structural racism. And this invariably results in disproportionate negative outcomes for the descendants of those slaves. Brazil forcibly brought some 4 million enslaved Africans into the country over three centuries, more than anywhere else in the Americas. About half its 209 million people are black – the world’s second largest African-descendant population after Nigeria. Though Brazil has never had legalised racial discrimination like Jim Crow, there are deeply embedded race-based inequalities shown in employment discrimination, residential segregation and a 3 year difference in life expectancy between black and white Brazilians (similar to the USA).
Government data does not include racial or ethnic information, and it was only after coming under pressure that the collection of COVID-19 racial data was begun in late April – but has yet to be released. Now outside researchers have shown that 55% of Afro-Brazilian patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19 died, compared to 34% of white patients. The research has found that structural racism – in the form of high-risk working conditions, unequal access to health and worse housing conditions – is a major factor shaping Brazil’s COVID-19 pandemic. There is also extreme economic inequality. White women earn up to 74% more than black men.
There are parallels here with data coming out of the UK and USA. Read the full article here.
To better understand how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting Pentecostal and Charismatic worshipping communities in England, MJR Trustee Dr Joe Aldred, in his role with Churches Together in England has held conversations with all 23 CTE members that make up the Pentecostal and Charismatic Forum. His findings are summarised in this document.
There are three sections:
MJR trustee Joe Aldred was interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Sunday programme yesterday on the impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities, where the risk of dying from the virus is at least 2-3 times higher in African-Caribbean communities than in white ones.
Joe reflects on personal loss, the reaction from Pentecostal churches and the wider effects on his community. "It feels like there has been a health timebomb waiting to explode in the African-Caribbean community. If you were to look at any of the stats in the UK for BAME life and particularly for my own community... what you will see is that we show up in negative stats almost anywhere you care to look, socially, economically, politically. We have lived with that over-representation in underlying conditions, and what Covid has done is simply highlighted that."
Listen to the full interview here (starts at about 18:50), or download an mp3 clip here.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that black people in England and Wales are more than four times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white people, exposing a dramatic divergence in the impact of the pandemic.
“These results show that the difference between ethnic groups in Covid-19 mortality is partly a result of socio-economic disadvantage and other circumstances, but a remaining part of the difference has not yet been explained.” the ONS said. The Department of Health and Social Care said: “This virus has sadly appeared to have a disproportionate effect on people from BAME backgrounds." The figures, covering deaths from 2 March to 10 April, are the first official snapshot of the way that Covid-19 has affected different ethnic groups in England and Wales.
Describing the findings as “alarming”, Zubaida Haque, deputy director of the Runnymede Trust race equality think tank, said: “We cannot ignore how important racial discrimination and racial inequalities (e.g. in housing) are, even among poorer socio-economic groups,” she said. “These factors are important but are not taken into account in most statistical modelling of Covid-19 risk factors.” Helen Barnard, from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said the findings were “a stark reminder that although we are all weathering the same storm, we are not all in the same boat”.
Read more here. Read the ONS report here.
"COVID-19 has exposed a pre-existing underlying health condition in our society."
In a Press Release today Movement for Justice and Reconciliation has made a call for urgent action from the government on the disproportionate number of BAME people dying from COVID-19. Chair Alton Bell says: "Although underlying health conditions may have contributed to the disproportionate number of deaths, too few people have recognised that social inequality and the legacy of enslavement are also major contributory factors." MJR has produced research that shows the links to enslavement in the descendants and in our modern society. Read the full release here.
In this article Dr Jenan Younis outlines a number of factors contributing to the disproportionately high number of deaths among NHS doctors and carers from BAME communities. She points to an inequality in workplace culture which results in BAME doctors being expected to do more, and not to complain. "There is evidence from the BMA and GMC that Bame doctors are much less likely to complain about issues regarding safety born from a concern of having to face recriminations or reprisals in comparison to their white counterparts." In the present crisis this results in colleagues being "fearful for their own safety without adequate PPE but equally fearful of the repercussions of speaking out."
This inequality is rooted in discrimination. "The medical profession is certainly no stranger to discrimination, a GMC-commissioned independent report highlighted that Bame medical professionals are likely to be treated differently and undersupported by their peers. It seems this is a discussion we as a profession are afraid to have."
While acknowledging that there is a debate going on about this issue, Dr Younis is not optimistic that it or the promised inquiry will lead to any lasting change. "All that will change is that many individuals such as myself will undergo a stark realisation that the value of being “ethnic” in this society is to serve and be sacrificed"
Read the full article. Photo: Amged El-Hawrani is just one of the many Bame care workers to have died.
This 'Exclusive' in Nursing Times interviews Carol Cooper, head of equality, diversity and human rights at Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust, who said BME nurses feel that the bias that "existed before" is now influencing their being appointed to Covid-19 wards, and exposed to patients with Covid "over and above their colleagues".
Ms Cooper warned the pandemic is “shining a light on the inequities which are part of the system in which we exist”.
“Many of us knew that BME people would be overrepresented - given their proportion of the population - in the mortality and morbidity figures because of the comorbidities that exist in our communities, because of the location of our communities in terms of the workforce being on the frontline [and] because of the amount of people that are caught in the poverty trap and live in households that have higher occupancy”.
“There is all sorts of multiple deprivations that people are subject to now and I think Covid is throwing a light on the cracks in society and I think we’re going to have to rethink how we exist as a society, how we care for one another, how we care for the most vulnerable people in our society.”
Read the full article here.
This 'Letter from Britain' by Joan Blaney details the ways in which existing discrimination and inequalities in British society have been exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. "Social and economic inequalities continue to be burning injustices, with black people experiencing high unemployment rates, less security in work, lower wages, and poorer housing. Such issues are a major threat to our long-term health and well-being and are readily exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. While government policies are to be observed by all to help slow the spread of the virus, they nonetheless bring deeper social and economic pain to many black people, particularly those in disadvantaged communities."
One example quotes a report by SHELTER which says Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups are "disproportionately likely to suffer from poor housing and seven times more likely to live in overcrowded conditions than white households. Social isolation therefore is not practicable in these circumstances." Additionally, as the majority of black people are mainly employed in manual and frontline caring jobs, they will find it harder, if not impossible, to work from home.
The article also points to the disproportionately higher non-white deaths from Covid-19 and links to underlying health issues such as malnutrition, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and coronary heart disease, which are more prevalent in the black community. "Attention should be paid to these underlying conditions to minimise such disastrous statics in the future." Read the full article here.
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