The UK Government will be taking action to tackle COVID-19 disparities including £4.3m of spending for six research projects to better understand the links between COVID-19 and ethnicity.
The Minister for Equalities, Kemi Badenoch MP, will provide the first quarterly report to the Prime Minister and Health Secretary on progress to understand and tackle COVID-19 disparities experienced by individuals from an ethnic minority background.
Public Health England released a review of disparities in risks and outcomes for people from ethnic minority backgrounds in June, and since then government has been focussed on taking action to improve the evidence base on the disparities and protecting those at greatest risk across the UK.
Badenoch has also appointed two expert advisors on COVID-19 and ethnicity that will work alongside the Cabinet Office’s Race Disparity Unit and engage with the new SAGE ethnicity sub-group.
Understanding the health impacts
As well as spending £4.3m on six innovative research projects that will seek to understand the links between COVID-19 and ethnicity, an additional £4m of spending will go toward targeting messaging at ethnic minority communities.
Updated guidance is now available for employers on protecting their workforce, and more than 95% of frontline NHS staff from ethnic minority backgrounds have had a risk assessment and subsequently have agreed any necessary action as a result.
Minister for Equalities, Kemi Badenoch, said: “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have prioritised protecting the most vulnerable in our society. Access to the latest public health information and protections should be available to everyone. To ensure that is the case we have invested in a strong package of measures to target messaging, develop the data we have available and make sure everyone is as safe as possible at home or in the workplace.
“Today’s report marks an important first step in our journey to understand and tackle the disproportionate impact of COVID. I remain committed to doing everything possible to beat back this virus.”
Evidence and data that has been gathered has now given the government and researchers a better understanding of the leading COVID-19 risk factors for ethnic minority people, including occupational exposure and existing medical conditions, and the Minister will set out how the Government will ensure the data can be translated into more action to protect those at greatest risk.
New measures to support communities
A number of new measures will be set out, including:
- A new ‘Community Champions’ scheme, worth up to £25m, funded by Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), that will provide funding to enhance communication strategies in at risk places, fund work with grassroots advocates from impacted communities, and provide funding for voluntary and community groups who specialise in working with communities most at risk from COVID-19.
- A new mandate for ethnicity to be recorded as part of the death certification process.
- An enhancement of the national Shielded Patients List to account for the increase in understanding of the risk factors related to the virus and the drivers of disparities.
Commenting on the new Community Champions Scheme, Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: “Councils are working tirelessly to support their communities throughout the pandemic. Which is why we are investing up to £25m for them to support ‘Community Champions’ in their area and help protect those most at risk by building trust, reducing transmission and ultimately helping to save lives.”