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Report lays bare how Covid-19 hit minorities the hardest

Higher percentages of the borough’s residents born in Africa or Asia have died during the outbreak

21 August, 2020 — By Richard Osley

Camden Council is one of the few local authorities to conduct its own investigation into the disparities

A NEW report has laid bare how Black, Asian minority ethnic communities in Camden have been most severely hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Higher percentages of the borough’s residents born in Africa or Asia have died during the outbreak, compared to those born in Europe and the UK, while a significantly higher proportion of Asian residents have been shielding at home.

There have been disproportionate numbers facing rent arrears during the crisis, and this has also shown up in new claims for Universal Credit.

Meanwhile, Black, Asian and minority ethnic workers have been considered more likely to be affected by loss of work in gig economy jobs according to workforce figures.

The findings are all part of a Town Hall investigation into the impacts of the coronavirus emergency on different communities in Camden.

While the disproportionate effects and number of deaths have been acknowledged on a national level with promises of investigations into the trend, Camden is one of the few local authorities to conduct their own review.

This led to number crunching of the Covid-19 figures for the borough, holding “roundtable” discussions and interviewing those running support services.

Further findings in the Building Equal Foundations report showed that 72 percent of households that qualified for overcrowding housing points had a ‘lead tenant’ who was Black, Asian or from another minority ethnic background.

This made lockdown harder for families with limited space for their children to learn at home while schools were closed. Council chiefs said they will look again at using housing voids – properties that have recently become vacant – as temporary accommodation to help the most severely overcrowded.

“We will work with Public Health to agree priority households, particularly those with a family member identified as being clinically vulnerable to Covid-19,” the report said.

Camden’s findings also revealed a disproportionate number of young people from minority communities were among new registrations for Kooth, an online mental health support service commissioned by the council.

Labour cabinet councillor Abdul Hai, who has been overseeing the review, said: “Covid-19 has exposed the cost of accepting high levels of health and social inequality, which is why now more than ever we need to work with our partners and communities to address this and bring about real systemic change.”


He added: “One of the tragedies of Covid-19 has been the unequal 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.”

Camden has responded by appointing a new director of equalities, Hanad Mohamed, to oversee policies aimed at changing the trends. A new “citizens’ panel” of Camden residents from different backgrounds will also be formed to act as a “critical friend”.

Dr Julie Billet, the borough’s director of public health, said the council’s work had “galvanised a renewed commitment” and that Camden would “tackle longstanding inequalities and structural disadvantage and discrimination facing Black, Asian and other ethnic communities.”

The work began amid Black Lives Matters protests following the death of George Floyd in the US. Camden lit up its council buildings with purple lamps as a message of solidarity.

In a separate section of the report, the council said young people had raised concerns about the possibility of being “profiled”.

“During lockdown, many young people felt they could not go outside, not because of Covid-19 but fear of being arrested or stopped for being perceived to have breached social distancing or lockdown regulations,” the report said, adding that teenagers had developed a “fight or flight” reaction when meeting police.

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