Covid briefings

Addressing the impact of the pandemic on ethnic inequalities, produced in association with the Runnymede Trust.

Ethnic minority older people: Histories of structural racism and the Covid-19 pandemic

Authors: Jenny Hewitt and Dharmi Kapadia.

  • Older ethnic minority people are more at risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus and to the social difficulties exacerbated by the pandemic due to longstanding inequalities in housing, health, employment, and resources. These inequalities are (both historically and today) largely structural in nature.
  • Older ethnic minority people have been deeply affected by isolation as a result of lockdowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The loss of social spaces, like those provided by voluntary, community, and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations, have been felt acutely by racially minoritised people in later life, who often use social spaces as a means of accessing cultural connection, support, and advice and information. The lack of digital access for some ethnic minority older people, coupled with language barriers for others, has further hindered their ability to maintain social connections and access resources and information.
  • Vaccine hesitancy is much more complex than has been painted by media discourses. The majority of older ethnic minority people featured in our study had accepted, and indeed had received, the vaccine but described friends and family members in their community feeling distrust of the government’s motives, making historical associations with eugenics and testing done on ethnic minority people, and feeling insulted and misunderstood by the racialised messages being conveyed about the reasons for vaccine hesitancy.

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Impact of Covid 19 on ethnically diverse high streets

Revisiting Brick Lane: The impact of Covid-10 on an ethnically diverse high street

Authors - Claire Alexander, Seán Carey, Suzanne Hall and Julia King.

  • High streets remain crucial to the economic, social and cultural lives of our cities, towns and neighbourhoods.
  • COVID-19 has exacerbated existing struggles for business owners and workers in the food and hospitality sectors nationally; this has implications for South Asian Muslim communities, who have historically been over-represented in these areas – 30.7 per cent of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are employed in distribution, hospitality and food retail, and 20.4 per cent are self-employed/small business owners.
  • Successive pandemic lockdowns have severely impacted businesses in Brick Lane, notably the ‘Indian’ restaurants.
  • While support schemes (rent and furlough) have mitigated some of the impact of the lockdowns, business closures in Brick Lane have doubled and trading activities for remaining businesses have been severely curtailed.
  • Moving business online through deliveries has been made difficult by the exorbitant rates of digital platforms.
  • Although the majority of businesses have now reopened, trade is very low (estimated at around two-thirds of usual turnover, and lower for the curry houses at 10–30 per cent).
  • Some new businesses are opening up, but there is concern among established businesses about the future.

Download 'Revisiting Brick Lane: The Impact of COVID-19 on an Ethnically Diverse High Street'.

Legislating statues

The Changing Shape of Cultural Activism: Legislating Statues in the Context of the Black Lives Matter Movement

Authors: Sadia Habib, Chloe Peacock, Ruth Ramsden-Karelse and Meghan Tinsley.

  • The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (2021) takes a damaging, punitive approach to contesting statues. It increases the maximum penalty for criminal damage to a memorial under the value of £5000 from three months’ to ten years’ imprisonment, while expanding the definition of ‘memorial’. This comes alongside restrictions on councils’ ability to remove statues.
  • These changes further criminalise anti-racist protest, posing a particular risk to racially minoritised communities, and making it more difficult to contest statues through official processes.
  • The government’s claim that harsher sentences will address the distress caused by damage to statues ignores the profound harms caused by the statues of slavers, colonisers and other racist figures that continue to dominate public space.
  • Though the government focuses on the need to protect ‘history’ from erasure, statues are neither complete nor neutral records of history. Rather, they prioritise certain figures, stories and values while ignoring or erasing others.
  • Local authorities, museums, academics and activists are exploring a wide range of processes to facilitate discussions about the contested meanings of statues, to encourage learning about the histories of racism they commemorate, consult local residents on their views and reach decisions about the future of statues – including how public space can better represent diverse communities.

Download 'The Changing Shape of Cultural Activism: Legislating statues in the context of the Black Lives Matter Movement'.

Racism, policing, and the COVID-19 pandemic

A Collision of Crises: Racism, policing, and the COVID-19 pandemic

Authors - Scarlet Harris, Remi Joseph-Salisbury, Patrick Williams, Lisa White.

  • In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK government has introduced unprecedented police powers under the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations and the Coronavirus Act.
  • At the same time, the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests ignited intense public debates around policing, which have continued into 2021 with the ‘Kill the Bill’ protests against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
  • Reflecting historical patterns, the policing of the pandemic has had the greatest impact on racially minoritised communities, with new police powers adding to and exacerbating pre-existing forms of racist policing.
  • Racial disparities are evident in official data on the use of force, stop and search, Fixed Penalty Notices and use of Section 60, and apparent in widespread media reports of excessive policing across public settings.

Download 'A Collision of Crises: Racism, policing, and the COVID-19 pandemic'.

COVID-19 and apprenticeship policy

COVID-19 and apprenticeship policy for ethnic minority young people

Authors: Ken Clark and Steve Nolan. Key points:

  • Despite some growth in the number of apprenticeship starts by ethnic minority learners, their representation relative to the secondary school population remains low. 
  • Much of the growth in apprenticeship starts in the past decade has been driven by older apprentices. 
  • Ethnic minority apprentices tend to favour certain sectors: health, public services and care; business, administration and law. 
  • White apprentices are more likely to complete the training than their counterparts from ethnic minorities in all sectors except for hospitality. 
  • Following the COVID-19 lockdown, vacancies for apprenticeships fell dramatically, including in those sectors favoured by ethnic minority learners. 
  • The government’s Kickstart programme runs the risk of undermining the push for greater ethnic minority representation in apprenticeships. 

Download the COVID-19 and apprenticeship policy briefing from the Runnymede website

Persistent racism and ethnic inequalities in COVID-19 mortality

Ethnic inequalities in COVID-19 mortality: A consequence of persistent racism

Authors: James Nazroo and Laia Bécares.

Key points:

  • Ethnic minority people experience a much higher risk of COVID-19-related death, a stark inequality that impacts on all ethnic minority groups, including white minority groups such as Gypsies and Irish Travellers.
  • Local authorities with higher proportions of ethnic minority residents are likely to have higher numbers of COVID-19-related deaths.
  • These inequalities reflect increased risk of exposure to the virus because of where people live, the type of accommodation they live in, household size, the types of jobs they do and the means of transport they use to get to work.
  • Ethnic inequalities in relation to COVID-19 mirror longstanding ethnic inequalities in health. A large body of evidence has shown that these inequalities are driven by social and economic inequalities, many of which are the result of racial discrimination.
  • Ethnic minorities are also at increased risk of complications and mortality post-COVID-19 infection; greater risk of serious illness with COVID-19 is more likely the result of pre-existing social and economic inequalities manifesting in the form of particular chronic illnesses. There is no evidence for genetic or genetically related
  • biological factors underlying this increased risk, including vitamin D deficiency.
  • Unless racism is understood as a key driver of the inequalities which increase the chances of exposure to and mortality from COVID-19, government and public sector policy responses to the coronavirus pandemic risk further increasing ethnic inequalities in the UK.

Download the ethnic inequalities in COVID-19 mortality briefing from the Runnymede website