Major failings occurred in how the government communicated with Black, Asian and minority ethnic disabled people during the pandemic, according to a new report from Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG).
The report from the Commission on COVID-19, Ableism and Racism, set up by the VODG, says that systemic racism embedded in the government’s responses to the pandemic may have worsened outcomes for Disabled Black, Asian and minority ethnic people.
The Commission’s findings highlighted a number of issues including the difficulties faced by disabled people in accessing public health information, and the government’s lack of engagement with minoritised disabled people, who the report says also experienced discrimination when accessing social services.
The report found these issues were the result of discriminatory and biased perceptions of disability and race embedded in the healthcare system, problems which were exacerbated by labels such as ‘vulnerable’ without any specific government explanations about what the term meant.
The Commission’s report made a number of recommendations including a call for the government to undertake an Equality Impact Assessment in all public health emergencies to ensure that the needs of all citizens are considered.
It also urged the government to create a cross-departmental advisory board of Disabled Black, Asian and minority ethnic people to advise on the impact and implementation of policy, co-chaired by someone with lived experience.
The Commission on COVID-19, Ableism and Racism was established by VODG (Voluntary Organisations Disability Group) in 2022 with three aims:
- To gather evidence of the impact of COVID-19 on disabled Black, Asian and minority ethnic people in England.
- Look for evidence of systemic racism that worsened outcomes for disabled Black, Asian and minority ethnic people.
- Highlight injustice and propose ideas for sustainable change in social care.
With funding from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, the Commission held 1:1 and group meetings to listen to people with lived experience and the organisations that work with them. Throughout these discussions the Commission made a number of findings which led to 18 recommendations for central and local government, the NHS, the UK Health Security Agency, Skills for Care and other agencies involved in the country’s pandemic response.
Read the report here.