Five Key Recommendations From The Lawrence Review Into Covid Impact On BAME Communities

Nadine White
·News reporter, HuffPost UK
·5 min read
(Photo: Jeff Spicer via Getty Images)
(Photo: Jeff Spicer via Getty Images)

Baroness Doreen Lawrence has set out 20 recommendations for the government to protect those most at risk from coronavirus and tackle inequality in the longer term.

The equality campaigner was commissioned to lead the review into how Covid-19 is affecting Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Titled An Avoidable Crisis, it found decades of structural discrimination led to the disproportionate impact of Covid on BAME communities and also identified “disgraceful racism”, fuelled in part by global leaders calling Covid-19 the “Chinese virus”.

Here are five key recommendations from the review.

An urgent plan to tackle the disproportionate impact of Covid on BAME people this winter

Despite being aware of the disproportionate impact on BAME communities, the government is accused of not doing enough to protect people ahead of the second wave.

Lawrence has told ministers to implement an urgent plan of action to address this.

It comes after campaigners told HuffPost UK that the government must take specific actions to prevent further deaths in BAME communities.

Dr. Halima Begum, the director of Runnymede Trust, told HuffPost UK: “Covid-19 isn’t racist but it does discriminate. The government stands in paralysis and fails to implement key recommendations – from the PHE report and Independent SAGE’s own set of recommendations – to protect people from within BAME communities.”

Baroness Lawrence is also calling upon the government to implement a national strategy to tackle health inequalities more broadly.

(Photo: Dominic Lipinski - PA Images via Getty Images)
(Photo: Dominic Lipinski - PA Images via Getty Images)

Ensure Covid-19 cases from the workplace are properly recorded

BAME workers have suffered disproportionately from the government’s failure to ensure workplaces are Covid-secure, the review found.

Many respondents told Lawrence about inadequate PPE, failures to implement and access risk assessments and insufficient government guidance on their protection.

The review suggests that adequate recording of Covid-19 cases can be achieved by employers documenting occupational infections of Covid-19 in line with health and safety law.

Lawrence also suggests that the government should introduce a legal requirement for employers to publish their Covid-19 risk assessments on a central government portal.

Access to PPE in all high-risk workplaces should also be provided, according to the review, and employers should be careful to provide PPE that is appropriate for all staff – such as those who wear hijabs, turbans or have beards for religious reasons.

(Photo: Maridav via Getty Images)
(Photo: Maridav via Getty Images)

Remove barriers to accessing public health information

The government has been criticised for its poor communication during the pandemic and to date there haven’t been many community-specific awareness raising campaigns materials distributed by local and central government, the review found.

Lawrence argues that this needs to be urgently addressed and said communication must have the trust of all communities and be tailored to different communities.

She also heard that the use of the term BAME can mask the ethnic identities and realities of the very people it seeks to represent and asserts the importance of ministers recognising this.

Suspend “no recourse to public funds” (NRPF) during the pandemic and review its impact on health

Since 2010 the Conservative party has implemented a range of policies to intentionally and openly create a “hostile environment” for undocumented migrants in the UK, from blocking access to public funding (NRPF) to making employers, landlords and NHS staff check people’s immigration status.

This aggressive policymaking infamously culminated in the Windrush scandal, which saw people who had the right to be in the UK deported or targeted by immigration officials.

The Lawrence review found that NRPF, which prevents many migrants accessing social security and other state assistance, was a factor in health inequalities experienced by many. In a submission for the review, the Coalition of Race Equality Organisation highlighted that the vast majority of migrants were unaware of the Covid-19 exemption from charging and immigration checks, meaning many were avoiding seeking medical care out of fear.

(Photo: Juanmonino via Getty Images)
(Photo: Juanmonino via Getty Images)

Lawrence is also urging the government to develop a clear plan to combat stigmatisation of communities during the Covid-19 crisis.

The pandemic has fuelled racism as some have sought to blame BAME communities for spreading the virus.

Despite SAGE scientists having warned the government in July of a risk that local restrictions could lead to racial stigmatisation and discrimination, little has been done to counter these narratives.

HuffPost UK recently reported on how an increase in hate crime this year has “left people too afraid to sit in their gardens”. One neighbour of a non-white key worker blamed them for spreading coronavirus.

Lawrence told the government to work with councils on a plan to address the increase in hate crime and scapegoating during the pandemic, including online.

The review recommends that as part of the plan, clear guidance should be given outlining the action that will be taken against those inciting racial hatred. She also called for political leaders to issue a joint statement condemning any attempt to pit communities against each other and for the much-delayed Online Harms Bill to be published.

Bring in emergency legislation to protect renters and ensure the Renters Reform Bill includes measures to tackle racism in private renting

BAME households are disproportionately affected by the affordability crisis in housing with many families pushed into the less regulated and less secure private rented market.

Research by Shelter has found that four in 10 landlords admitted that “prejudices and stereotypes” come into letting decisions.

Lawrence submits that the government should raise the local housing allowance to the level of local average rents, to ensure low-income households are not forced into debt, eviction and homelessness during the crisis.

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.