Local community organisation demands inquiry into UK BAME COVID-19 deaths
By Luchia Robinson
Community organisation, Ubele Initiative is seeking answers from the government by demanding an independent, public inquiry into the disproportionate UK BAME deaths from COVID-19.
The African Diaspora led social enterprise, based in Wolves Lane, Wood Green, has written an open letter to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson calling for an inquiry.
The letter, which has more than 400 signatures, followed on from a petition: BAME communities and the impact of COVID-19, which was started in April, amassing over 5,000 signatories. Both calls to action were led by Tottenham resident, Yvonne Field, Managing Director of The Ubele Initiative.
The open letter demands transparency by requesting that the following be explored: the cultural and systematic treatment of BAME staff by their employers; the level of exposure NHS staff and key workers across the care (public and private sectors) had to COVID-19; the government’s level of preparedness in factoring the needs and requirements of BAME communities in line with Public Sector Equalities Duty; the impact of social distancing measures on BAME communities, and the examination of levels of funding and social investment in local authority areas where COVID-19 BAME deaths have been disproportionate.
Although making up only 14% of the population, recent evidence from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre reveals BAME communities made up 34% of those critically ill with confirmed COVID-19 in the UK. Ethnic minority communities are particularly overrepresented in the health and transport sectors, with these frontline workers having increased risk of exposure to the virus.
Yvonne said: “We feel the government independent, public inquiry into the disproportionate UK BAME deaths from COVID-19.
“It’s just horrendous the whole situation, and the government comes on TV every day, talking about the numbers of the dead as if counting sheep. It feels like that there’s a lack of emotional connection with the people. We’re trying to raise community voices around this.
“Community confidence is low. BAME community confidence is particularly low.”
The Ubele Inititive has started the Majonzi fund to raise £10,000 which will pay for BAME therapists and bereavement counsellors to support those affected. Donations will also fund memorial events so that people can have a way of remembering their lost loved ones once lockdown measures are fully eased.
Yvonne said: “At the moment communities are in real shock, they’re trying to deal with living under lockdown, they’re trying to put food on their tables, and they’re trying to think about how they’re going to educate their kids.
“There’s a big mental health issue that’s rising, and it will get even worse over the coming year once we’ve got some semblance of normality – but I don’t know what that’s going to look like.”
Yvonne urges Tottenham residents to sign the letter and tell others about it, raising the issue with local councillors, whilst asking them to do the same. She also encourages the community to write to central government, telling the stories of what has happened to them in the pursuit of answers.
This demand for transparency from the Prime Minster has been supported by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan who last month called upon the Mayor’s Advisory Group to better understand and mitigate the driving factors causing the high death rates in the capital.
With London’s population being more than 40% BAME, City Hall says it is committed to ensuring that tackling structural inequality remains a priority. The mayor has lobbied the government to
begin registering the ethnicity of COVID patients, and to record this data on death certificates in the case of fatalities.
Sadiq Khan said: “A person’s ethnicity should not mean the difference
between life and death and yet COVID-19 has exposed major health inequalities in our society. “I’ve been clear that this pandemic must be a wake-up call for our country and a catalyst for fundamental change. Once this crisis is over, we will need to forge a new social contract based on advancing the twin causes of racial and economic equality.
“That means the government taking action to address the root causes of this injustice to ensure every Londoner, regardless of their background or the colour of their skin, has the opportunity to live safe, healthy and happy lives.”
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