'We must take action to tackle coronavirus inequalities’, says Council leader

Camden is taking action to address the unequal impacts of COVID-19 on Black, Asian and minority ethnic residents in the borough and prevent existing inequalities from getting even wider as a result of this pandemic.

In a report published today, the Council explores how disproportionality is affecting residents locally and outlines six key topics that will be examined to better understand the issues Black, Asian and minority ethnic residents are facing whilst developing actions to protect those in need.

The topics include what the local lived experience has been for our Black, Asian and minority ethnic residents during this pandemic, the employment and the labour market, wider health inequalities that are present in Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, school and education, housing and our most vulnerable residents, including those that are shielding.

Early findings that have been informed by the experience of our Black, Asian and minority ethnic residents as well as local data show:

  • In North Central London there has been higher percentage of COVID-19 deaths in people born in African or Asia, compared to those born in the UK or Europe
  • Long-term health conditions that increase risk to COVID-19 (e.g. diabetes and heart conditions) are higher in Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups in comparison to their white counterparts
  • Bangladeshi and Somali families are reporting the negative impacts on the health and wellbeing of vulnerable family members as a result of living in overcrowded, multigenerational households
  • Black, Asian and minority ethnic residents are also finding that their mental wellbeing is being severely affected with high anxieties around catching the virus, social isolation and loneliness from having to stay home
  • Language barriers and the lack of streamlined information as well as an overload of information from a variety of sources has added to those anxieties and means that they may not be accessing support they might need
  • The Somali community have also raised concerns about their children’s education being affected by a lack of access to digital equipment to study and unsuitable working environments. There are also concerns that exam results based on predicted grades will under-grade those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups
  • Black, Asian and minority ethnic families also expressed disappointment, particularly around the lack of information on burials for the first month of the crisis, and the loss of burial rights and communal healing for the grieving
  • The UK unemployment rate among people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds is almost twice that of their white counterparts according to data from January to March 2020
  • Black, Asian and minority ethnic workers are also more economically vulnerable to the current crisis than white ethnic groups as they are more likely to work in the shut-down sectors such as restaurants, retail and the gig economy
  • There has been a significant increase in rent arrears and Universal Credit (UC) claims since lockdown measures were put in place for those living in Council accommodation and early data shows a disproportionate effect on Black, Asian and minority ethnic people.
Covid-19 has exposed how deeply entrenched injustice and inequality impacts our Black, Asian and minority communities. We have been working as a council and community to address racism and inequality, but the loss and trauma of the last few months calls on us to listen, learn and take comprehensive action.

We owe it to our diverse community to make sure that this is a moment for real change, where rightful anger turns into action.

This report is just the start of our work to address racial inequality in our borough. From education and employment, to health and housing, we will focus on lasting change alongside our communities. We are calling on everyone in Camden to join us in this work.
Cllr Georgia Gould, Leader of the Council
The inequalities that unfortunately exist in Camden have always worried us, and this virus is only exacerbating those fears.

One of the tragedies of COVID-19 has been the disproportionate number of deaths among black and ethnic minority people - people of Bangladeshi ethnicity have twice the risk of dying from COVID-19 than people of white British ethnicity. Other ethnicities have between 10% and 50% higher risk of death when also compared to people who are white British.

We’ve set up a dedicated working group, which is also co-chaired by Julie Billett Director of Public Health, to take a deeper look into these issues and by working across public health and community groups, we aim to address and mitigate the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on minority groups living in Camden.
Cllr Abdul Hai, Cabinet Member for Young People and Cohesion and Co-chair of BAME Inequalities and COVID -19 Working Group

Working alongside public health and local voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations, the Council’s Black, Asian and minority ethnic inequalities and COVID-19 working group are also developing a set of actions to reduce the devastating impact covid-19 it’s having on Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and to support them through this difficult time.

So far, the Council has been in regular contact with local partners who work with Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities to monitor emerging issues and provide the relevant information and advice and supplied over 11,000 food hampers to those in need.

The Council is also running a Digital Divide campaign to encourage businesses to donate laptops to pupils who don’t own one to study, developed targeted resources to support resident health and wellbeing in Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and are also using multiple channels to signpost residents to the Doctors of the World website where NHS guidance is available in 45 languages including Bengali, Somali, and other non-English languages spoken in the borough.

Camden Council is committed to working closely with our community and partners to ensure our work is resident focused and we would love to hear your thoughts, comments and suggestions on our findings and actions so far.

If you would like to contact us, please email in at [email protected].

Read the full report here and evidence, which includes the main findings of each topic and actions.