New report explores the impact of Covid-19 on BAME families

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The findings of a new £2.5 million research project exploring the impact of Covid-19 on Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds (BAME) have been published.

Black and ethnic minority communities experienced great anxiety exacerbated by being in low-paid and precarious work, worries about education and disproportionate attention from police during the Covid-19 lockdown, academics from Goldsmiths, Royal Holloway and UCL have found.

Claudia Bernard, Professor of Social Work at Goldsmiths, in collaboration with Professor Anna Gupta, Royal Holloway, and Professor Monica Lakhanpaul, UCL, examined the implications of Covid-19 on children, young people and their families.

The report, titled ‘The Consortium on Practices of Wellbeing and Resilience in BAME families and communities’ details an 18-month investigation which looked at those who have experienced a disproportionate socio-economic and psychosocial impact. The research examined the effects on mental and emotional health and well-being and the psychological and social implications.  

The research also found that black and minority ethnic communities relied more on social networks and community support than formal support services borne of a pre-existing lack of trust and a fear of racist responses.

The inequities of the pandemic impact on BAME communities were already reported soon after the virus hit- with data revealing that while making up only 3.8 per cent of the population in England, BAME people made up 5.8 per cent of Covid-19 deaths. The CoPOWER report goes deeper, reviewing the impact of efforts to stem the transition of the virus on family life, education, and parenting.

Through engaging with young people and parents from BAME communities across England and Wales as well BAME professionals in social services the report shows that the disproportionate impacts of the disease were exacerbated by pre-existing racial and structural inequalities.

Key areas of CoPOWER report were: 

  • BAME children experienced increased anxiety over parental employment and income
  • Cramped housing, the absence of free school meals and a lack of access to internet and digital services had a negative impact on their ability to stay engaged with their education during lockdown.
  • BAME children experienced inconsistencies in policing of lockdown rules. There were similar inconsistencies in supporting their education and mental health.
  • Low pay, precarious jobs, poor housing conditions and immigration control
  • BAME parents were not able to access financial support available to other workers during the lockdown.
  • Multi-generational homes made social distancing a challenge especially in overcrowded housing.

Professor Claudia Bernard a co-author of the report at Goldsmiths, University of London said: “The recently opened Covid-9 public inquiry has pinpointed chronic blind spots in the Government’s recognition of BAME communities in their emergency planning response to the virus, but our research show that the formal support services at the local level were equally lacking.

“This wasn’t an error of oversight but represented racial and structural inequalities that were present and baked into service provision before Covid. If we are going to build back better then service providers need to be culturally responsive to meet the needs of BAME families. Our recommendations place them in a position to achieve exactly that.” 

The authors recommended that policymakers and service providers address harm and promote resilience and well-being. These include ensuring investment in place-based community services within local and national government and children’s service providers adopting an intersectional approach for understanding how policies and practices impact BAME communities.

Other recommendations included co-producing youth services with young people, recognising the importance of grassroots-level insider workers, building trust between police and BAME communities through active engagement, and addressing racial discrimination within children's social care, education and health services.

Professor Monica Lakhanpaul, UCL said: “Children and young people from BAME communities deserve a better future. We know that they have always been impacted by racial discrimination, but this combined with the impact of the pandemic puts them at further danger of being ‘left behind’. It is important that we act now, provide them with the safe spaces to connect with each other, and rebuild their trust in the police and education services. We, as a society, need to do better because these young people are our adults of tomorrow.”

The study forms part of a larger Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funded project, Co-POWeR Consortium on Practices of Wellbeing and Resilience in Black Asian and Minority Ethnic Families and Communities. The consortium began from the premise that two viruses were afflicting BAME communities, the pandemic and racial discrimination.

Professor Anna Gupta, Royal Holloway said: “I am so pleased to have been involved in Co-POWeR and to be able to share the findings of this important study that gives a voice to underrepresented BAME young people and their families. The study makes several important recommendations about how policies and practices can promote the wellbeing of these families going forward and I hope that this research informs decision-making in the future.”

The Consortium on Practices of Wellbeing and Resilience in BAME Families and Communities: Children, Young People and their Families findings are available to read in full, including an executive summary, report, leaflet and policy brief.