Coronavirus: Council equalities lead wants independent probe into impact of government response on diverse communities

Cllr Carole Williams. Picture: Hackney Council

Cllr Carole Williams. Picture: Hackney Council - Credit: Archant

Hackney Council’s equalities lead has called for an independent review into the impact of the government’s coronavirus response on the borough’s diverse communities.

In a hard-hitting letter to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, Cllr Carole Williams said: “We have no confidence that the government will adequately review their own actions with the scrutiny that these issues deserve.”

It follows the government’s announcement that it will review the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on ethnic minorities after evidence from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre found 35 per cent of almost 2,000 critically ill patients were non-white, nearly triple the 13% proportion of the UK population.

Cllr Williams called for the commission to research the impact of coronavirus on people with protected characteristics, as defined by the Equality Act. The Hoxton West councillor also wants the group to probe whether government actions, such as the herd immunity strategy, the timing of the lockdown and the supply of PPE and testing, have worsened the impact on those communities.

“While the coronavirus does not discriminate in its infection of people, the impacts of the crisis, and the response from governments, do,” said Cllr Williams. “Hackney’s diverse residents and staff need assurances that the government’s actions have helped, and not hindered, the protection of their communities. Only a review independently of the government can help achieve this.”

In London 44% of all NHS trust staff are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, as are 67% of the adult social care workforce.

Cllr Williams, cabinet member for employment, also called for the investigation to look at the impact on ethnic minority owned businesses and creative industries, as well as charities and voluntary groups working with BAME communities.

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The council has also written to Baroness Doreen Lawrence and MP Marsha de Cordova welcoming Labour’s review into the impact of coronavirus on BAME communities.

“We have called for this review to be intersectional, as those whose identities cover multiple protected characteristics will be impacted differently,” Cllr Williams added.

Hackney mayor Phil Glanville said the council’s efforts during the pandemic had not been helped by a government that has been “too slow to react and too unprepared”.

He added: “Hackney’s communities need answers as to whether this has worsened the impact of the crisis on certain groups and the confidence that going forward they and their representatives will be fully involved in the next phase of the response.”