Matt Hancock’s participation in I’m A Celebrity has generated endless publicity and commentary, a significant portion of it pointing to his supposed failings when he was Secretary of State for Health during the pandemic, although some of it has also suggested that his reputation has been rescued.
Whilst it is often the case when a disaster occurs that we look at specific decisions or for individuals who are responsible the scale of excess deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic is unlikely to be the result of one individuals actions, but more likely to be the consequence of the systems that should have protected people failing to do so. Why and how these systems failed will most likely point to specific decisions and individual failures, but it is vitally important that we understand how the response to pandemic failed to protect people and led to disproportionate impact on some so that lessons can be identified and implemented.
Perhaps this is the real disservice that I’m A Celebrity has done, that the vital work of the Covid-19 Inquiry that finally began on October 4th, has been overshadowed or ignored whilst what Mr Hancock has been asked to it makes the front page of newspapers. The decision by Baroness Hallett that inquiry would not hear directly from families of the bereaved directly has almost gone without notice, whilst Mr Hancock’s willingness to humiliate himself has become legendary.
The Foundation has continued our work to ensure that Covid-19 Inquiry addresses the key issues that impacted the disproportionate impact on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities. Beyond the joint letter to the Baroness Hallett (Guardian link) to which she responded (Guardian link) we have supported the Inquiry team’s development of their ‘listening portal’ where people will be encouraged to share their stories with the Inquiry.
Most recently this included attending a roundtable to consider how the Inquiry can ensure they hear the voices Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups and others. We have also received and responded to a Rule 9 request from the Inquiry team’s lawyers as part of the information gathering in preparation for Module 2 of the inquiry which focuses on Government decision making.
As importantly we have continued our work with the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice. Through Charlie Williams and Safiah Ngah we have been liaising with the Bereaved Families and the lawyers representing them, most recently providing them with a list of potential experts on the disproportionate impact of the pandemic. Our next step with see a joint event led by Charlie and Safiah that will see member of the Bereaved Families and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic voluntary and community organisations coming together to hear from the legal team from Broudie Jackson Canter about their preparations and their request for support.
Our hope is that the distractions of the past few months do not deflect anyone from ensuring that the Covid-19 Inquiry understand what went wrong and what needs to be done better.