Written evidence submitted by the JAN Trust (MRS0474)
JAN Trust is a charity which supports women and young people from the most marginalised communities. As a grassroots charity working with BAME women we have had numerous reports of the various ways that our beneficiaries are being affected by both the illness and response to it.
At JAN Trust, we have had reports from beneficiaries of individual’s not being accepted into hospital when displaying symptoms and being told to not seek treatment by 111. As well as ambulances being less likely to come promptly or come at all when called. The Mental Health Foundation says that racism and discrimination can affect BAME communities’ access to healthcare. A number of hostile policies (for example, needing to show a passport at NHS) have meant that BAME communities can also feel reluctant to seek medical help in the first place. This teamed with slow responses from emergency services can have a detrimental effect on these communities and their health.
The lockdown response has exacerbated a number of pre-existing issues for many of our beneficiaries.
Many ethnic minorities, from the south Asian community in particular, live in multigenerational households. This means that grandparents, children and grandchildren can live under the same roof. This living arrangement ensures that the elderly can be looked after, and is a solution to not being able to afford multiple houses. BAME workers also comprise of a large proportion of the key workers. As we are told to self-isolate, multigenerational households become at higher risk of contracting Covid-19, especially if younger people still need to work. As people aged over 70 are automatically more vulnerable, the living arrangements of elderly BAME people severely increases their risk of contracting Covid-19. As a result, for many, multigenerational living has meant that they have had to find emergency living arrangements, causing financial stress and anxiety for people already in precarious economic conditions.
Self-isolation has increased the number of domestic violence incidents within households. Safe spaces like the JAN Trust, where survivors can find refuge, have had to close during the pandemic. Women’s Aid suggests that domestic violence may be perpetrated by anyone, including extended family members, and this can occur in multigenerational living households. Women from BAME communities face discrimination which lead to additional barriers in seeking help from authorities, statutory services and healthcare providers. Self-isolating in violent households therefore puts Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities at high risk of domestic violence.
Other living conditions and mental health
Ethnic minorities are highly represented in high risk occupations but also live in difficult conditions. They are less likely to be able to work from home, or have space to do so. Precarious living conditions also mean that they are likely to live in overcrowded housing, described as housing “where there are fewer bedrooms than needed to avoid undesirable sharing”. With 30% of Bangladeshi households and 15% of Black African households in England being ‘overcrowded’, there are concerns that the isolation policy has disproportionately affected BAME communities. At JAN Trust, we have received an increase in calls concerning mental health issues. There has been a huge strain on individuals’ mental health with depression increasing due to loneliness. For people who live in precarious economic conditions, internet poverty or a lack of digital skills have contributed to these feelings of loneliness.
Elderly people who have been isolated away from their multigenerational households are at further risk, especially if alone during Ramadhan.
For younger people, considering that BAME workers are overrepresented in the gig economy, is it likely that they have lost their jobs due to not being able to work from home. This adds pressures on families, who might rely on multiple incomes to buy food and medicine, and contributes to further anxiety and struggling with mental health.
All of the above are more severe for those with protected characteristic in particular as a result of the cuts to services that have taken place over the last decade such as mental health services and those to women’s charities and as has been alluded to in the previous question there is a differential impact on those from BAME communities due to longstanding discrimination. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19 because of the socio-economic and race-based discrimination they face throughout society. They are more likely to live in poorer living conditions, have less space, work in intermediate, routine or manual occupations which puts them at greater risk of contracting the virus. All of the complexities mentioned in the previous question refer to issues specifically for BAME communities.
Coronavirus bill states that “containing and slowing the virus – by reducing unnecessary social contacts, for example through powers over events and gatherings, and strengthening the quarantine powers of police and immigration officers”. There is a risk that BAME communities are disproportionately targeted by these measures as we already know that they are likely to be stopped and searched.
 English Housing Survey