Covid-19 and the mental health crisis: Was this inevitable?

The UK government’s action – or lack of – has undeniably exacerbated the mental health crisis. This mental health crisis will not be rendered invisible any longer. 

Covid-19 has devastated our mental health. Feelings of uncertainty, isolation, fear, anxiety, and loneliness heightened as the UK headed into a second national lockdown in early November. As the government fails to control the unprecedented effects of the pandemic, we are forced to ask ourselves, was this seismic mental health crisis inevitable?

Predictions of the long-term impacts of Covid-19 on mental health were clear from the onset. Forcing people to stay in their homes, with socialisation and human relationships temporarily put on hold, the constant fear of job losses as the UK headed into further economic downfall, the pain of grieving lost loved ones, livelihoods shattered, all of which have been further exacerbated for those with pre-existing mental health conditions; this is a time defined by universal struggle.

While no single group has escaped the negative psychological impact of the lockdown measures designed to minimise the viral spread of the Covid-19 virus, mental health has fallen through the cracks yet again in the government’s response to the pandemic. The disproportionate implications of Covid-19 for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities throughout the UK, have been stressed in a previous blog from JAN Trust, worsening the conditions for further mental health struggles.

Yet, the mental health crisis in the UK has ultimately been overlooked by the government. As highlighted in an article from the Guardian, “the Tories’ ideology driven cuts left the country woefully unprepared for the pandemic”, leaving underfunded mental health services paralysed in their efforts to support those who are vulnerable and struggling. Austerity measures have been further defined during the pandemic. In early October, Nadine Dorries, the Minister for Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and Patient Safety, said that the government would pledge an extra £2.3bn of funding into mental health services, a figure which was inadequate to the funding requirement of £2.6bn by the NHS’s five-year plan on national mental health recommended before the pandemic. Priti Patel, the Secretary of State, did not meet with a single mental-health organisation within the first three months of the pandemic, failing to administer guidance or leadership on the issue. The UK government’s action – or lack of – has undeniably exacerbated the mental health crisis. It was never a policy priority.

And so far, the costs have been severe. According to the Lancet Journal, children’s mental health deteriorated in lockdown more than any other age group, while 8 in 10 young people reported that the pandemic had made their mental health worse, with 1 in 4 opting for “much worse”. While the younger generation are at lower risk for serious illnesses from Covid-19, the restrictive measures in place to protect the most vulnerable has ultimately sacrificed young people’s mental health.

However, saving the lives of the vulnerable through imposed lockdown restrictions, and the mental health and wellbeing of the nation should not be framed as trade-offs; this is not a matter of compromise. “Ours is an age of necessary sacrifice, but that should not mean needless self-harm”, says Owen Jones in an article from the Guardian.

The national lockdown has forced university students in the UK into quarantine, leaving many first-year students in isolation in unfamiliar settings with flatmates that they have only known since September. Times are tougher than ever before for university students. Mental health campaigners have described universities encouraging students back to campus as “reckless”, and a number of students have already dropped out or deferred, having expressed serious concern over a lack of support. In October, the National Union of Students issued a mental health warning and demanded urgent action to be taken over the tragic student suicides that have happened since the start of the university term.

The case for university students reflects the wider condition of mental health in the UK. In England, the Centre for Mental Health has predicted that up to 10 million people – almost a fifth of the population – will need mental health support as a direct consequence of Covid-19. Sooner or later, policymakers will be forced to recognise that not enough is being done to safeguard the population, and faced with the widespread demand to address the Covid-19-related mental health crisis. According to international organisations, including the World Health Organisation, mental health and psychosocial support must be integrated into Covid-19 governmental response, while the UN policy brief suggests that investing in mental health services now will mitigate long-term implications.

As the UK faces yet another lockdown, a national conversation about mental health, and the services and resources required to support those struggling, must be brought to the forefront, and the government must listen.

If only they had in the first place, the deteriorating condition of the nation’s mental health could have been avoidable.

Here at JAN Trust, we offer culturally sensitive advice, support, and guidance on any issues to women within the community, including mental health. If you have any concerns about yourself or an individual:

See Samaritans’ tips on how to start a difficult conversation.

Rethink also has advice on how to support someone who is having suicidal thoughts.

These free helplines are there to help when you are feeling down or desperate.

Unless it says otherwise, they are open 24 hours a day, every day.

Samaritans – for everyone
Call 116 123
Email 
jo@samaritans.org

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) – for men
Call 0800 58 58 58 – 5pm to midnight every day
Visit the 
webchat page

Papyrus – for people under 35
Call 0800 068 41 41 – 9am to midnight every day
Text 07860 039967
Email 
pat@papyrus-uk.org

Childline – for children and young people under 19
Call 0800 1111 – the number will not show up on your phone bill

Posted in mental health, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a phenomenon unique to the internet. With increased internet use, being aware of the impacts and signs of online bullying is important in supporting vulnerable children.

Bullying is understood as behaviour by a person or group with the intention to hurt and harass someone. Ofcom reports that 53% of 12 to 15-year-olds were concerned about bullying, abusive behaviour and threats. Whilst schools have measures in place to tackle bullying within their premises, sometimes bullying over the internet can go unnoticed.

Cyberbullying is a phenomenon unique to the internet: it is largely done via social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. November holds the anti-bullying week and as a result, we want to help you recognise the signs and dangers of cyberbullying. Awareness means being better prepared to help and support those you know might be at risk.

What is cyberbullying?

As explained by Bullying UK cyberbullying can take shape in different ways. Some of the most common forms are:

  • Harassment – This happens when someone constantly sends insulting and offensive comments, messages or photos about an individual, online via social media, gaming sites or chat rooms.
  • Denigration – This happens when someone sends photos or messages that are fake, damaging or untrue, especially in order to ruin someone reputation. Altering and posting photos without consent can be a form of bullying.
  • Flaming – This happens when someone purposefully causes distress to someone else by getting into online arguments and using extremely offensive language to get a reaction.
  • Cyber Stalking – This happens when someone sends messages that include threats, harm and harassment, leading an individual to fear for their safety.
  • Exclusion – This happens when an individual or group does not include someone in social media groups or chats with the purpose of isolating them.

Impacts of cyberbullying

Cyberbullying, just as offline bullying, can have severe impacts on its victims. Young people might refuse to go to school in fear of getting bullied. Individuals who are bullied might also be excluded from social events, develop low self-esteem, as well as withdraw from friends and family. These can lead to mental health issues as severe self-harm.

Overall, being bullied over the internet can lead to changes in personality, with individuals becoming more angry and depressed. If you notice these changes from close ones, reach out and talk.

At JAN Trust we are particularly concerned about cyberbullying, because we know that vulnerable teenagers who spend time online can become targets of extremists and gang groomers. Extremists working as individuals or groups prey on isolated individuals whilst drawing them into extremism by faking support and an alternative way of life, exploiting the desperate situation of a vulnerable youngster.

60% of girls aged 12-15 year old reported being concerned about bullying, abusive behaviour and threats.  Unfortunately, cyberbullying as well as grooming  are popular methods of manipulating young girls online.  There are countless cases of teenage girls being drawn into online relationships with groomers, who appear innocent at first, but soon turn exploitative. For example, young girls will share intimate photos which the groomers, who then use the photos to blackmail teenagers in either in performing sexual acts or joining gangs or extremist forces.

At JAN Trust we have been working on issues related to the internet since 2010 when we launched Web Guardians™. We believe that vigilance when using the internet is key. Our programme aims to train mothers in detecting the harmful aspects of the internet for children. Our more recent Another Way Forward™ programme focuses on empowering young girls who may be vulnerable of being groomed and radicalised. It trains them to identify issues that arise from the internet, but also campaign, support each other and have a voice on something that affects them in particular.

What to do if you are being bullied

The Government’s advice on bullying recommends that if a child is being cyberbullied, it is best to not to respond or retaliate. Instead, the evidence of the abuse should be saved and the incident should be reported to a trusted adult.

The regulations on cyberbullying and online harms

The attempt to regulate the internet and the dangers that come with it has been a longstanding issue. In 2017, Facebook and other tech giants created a collaborative forum in an attempt to share best practices and potential solutions to  issues such as cyberbullying. At the time, Google also started enabling users to report false or offensive information in their search suggestion. Thus far, however, the large tech corporations have not been able to sufficiently self-regulate the content posted on their sites to ensure the safety of a user. In the same year, the Crown Prosecution Service ordered prosecutors to treat online hate crimes as seriously as they would offences carried out in person. The Government is currently discussing the Online Harms Bill which  would provide a framework for tackling issues that arise online, as well as set expectations for technology giants in protecting users. We know how important the issue of online harms is and how much it can affect people’s lives: therefore, we hope the Government will treat the matter with the urgency it requires.

At JAN Trust, we are aware that solution to issues such as cyberbullying only became more widely spoken about in 2017. We recognise that the Government’s approach to tackling cyberbullying, online hate and harassment is still relatively new.  We believe that our programmes – Web Guardians™ and Another Way Forward™ – are an essential part in protecting our communities from cyberbullying and other online harms. Our programmes in particular breach the gap between the impending legislation on tackling online harms and at-home protection.  Whilst our AWF™ programme is currently going forward, unfortunately Web Guardians™ has funding to be delivered, leaving our community and young people vulnerable to online harms and cyberbullying.

Posted in Online abuse, Online hate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Belly Mujinga has been failed by the UK

When will endless condolences stop being enough and when will actual justice prevail?

Belly Mujinga was a British-Congolese 47-year-old railway ticket worker, who died on April 5th earlier this year after being spat at by a man claiming to have COVID-19. She was working at Victoria station alongside a colleague when she was assaulted. Both women fell ill with the virus, however Belly passed away 3 days after being admitted to Barnet Hospital and put on a ventilator.

Belly Mujinga’s untimely death sparked national outrage after the British Transport police interviewed  the 57-year-old suspect, but concluded there was no “evidence to substantiate any criminal offences having taken place, and the tragic death of Belly Mujinga was not a consequence of this incident”. Following the growing public interest, the CPS  was asked to review the case, although they  came to the same conclusion. They stated that there was no consistent and reliable evidence to substantiate the allegation that the man responsible for her death had deliberately spat on her. As the medical tests confirmed that he had not been infected with COVID-19, together with lack of evidence, ruled out any charges in relation to homicide. Belly Mujinga’s case has since been closed, and there has been no effort to take further action to bring justice to her 11-year-old daughter, husband, family and friends. In addition to failure from the BTP and CPS to prosecute the man responsible for her death, Belly was also failed by her employer, as she was not provided with PPE despite her request, as well as the government, whose guidelines the employers were following.

Since her death, however, in a similar case a man  was jailed for spitting at a London bus driver during the height of the pandemic. Kevin Simpson was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison for Actual Bodily Harm (ABH). Another man, George Crean,  was jailed for 12 months after spitting on a police officer and ‘joked’ about having the virus. There have been many other similar cases throughout the pandemic. The Justice Secretary Robert Buckland ironically announced the government’s plans to double the maximum sentence for attacks on emergency workers, while people have been chanting Belly Mujinga’s name across nationwide Black Lives Matter protests in a bid to gain justice for her death. In light of these swift prosecutions that have happened just shortly after her death, we are all wondering when justice will happen for Belly. The Black Lives Matter protests have kept Belly’s name alive, her husband Lusamba Katalay stating that they have ‘defended his wife’s cause’.  He also said, “We want justice for Belly. Belly did not lie about being assaulted. Belly and her colleague were confronted and intimidated as frontline workers and their concerns, and their fears were ignored. We continue to have questions after the police investigation”.

When will endless condolences stop being enough and when will actual justice prevail?

At JAN Trust we stand against all racism. We have worked with BAME and marginalised women for 31 years to educate, encourage and empower them to become active citizens and help tackle issues that arise within their communities. Find out more about our projects through our website.

Posted in Advocacy, Campaign, discrimination, Racism | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

The disproportionate effects of the pandemic on BAME-led businesses

Official data has made it clear that Black, Asian and minority ethnic people (BAME) are negatively and disproportionately affected by the virus. Similarly, BAME-led and especially small, local businesses have been the hardest hit by the economic effects of the pandemic.

Right at the beginning of the first lockdown in spring, the Black South West Network (BSWN) in Bristol conducted a survey with local BAME-led businesses, social enterprises, and self-employed workers. One of the main concerns voiced by respondents was “maintaining of cashflow and liquidity to cover core expenses”. 90% of them reported significant financial loss. 67% said they had to close their business because they were unable to adapt to home delivery, supply prices were rising, and many lost costumers during lockdown. Due to movement restrictions costumers increasingly chose to buy all their goods from one large shop, rather than multiple small ones, leaving community businesses in an even more difficult situation. Almost half (48%) of all respondents reported a drop in sales and 29% were forced to reduce their staff during the lockdown months.

The businesses that experienced less significant financial loss are within sectors where most of the services were already delivered through online avenues before coronavirus, such as Information Technology and Digital Marketing. Previous BWSN data shows that IT and digital businesses are underrepresented among BAME entrepreneurs, especially when compared to representation in retail businesses and food industries, sectors particularly affected by the economic recession following lockdown. In fact, IT barriers were among the top worries described by entrepreneurs in non-digital sectors who had to adapt to online sales or access online government resources for support.

Other difficulties accessing support also came through in many responses. Using the business rate system to identify the businesses that were eligible for financial support both through the Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) and grants funding automatically excluded a huge number of entrepreneurs that run businesses from rented facilities, such as public venues or co-working spaces. Government communication about grants coming through post also made it difficult for those that could not access their facilities or people whose first language  is not English.

The sectors most affected by the crisis in the UK (transport, accommodation, retail and food services) with the highest rates of furloughed jobs and redundancies have disproportionate numbers of BAME employees as well as owners. 15% of workers in sectors that shut down because of the coronavirus are from a BAME background, compared to a workforce average of 12%; 57% are women, compared 48% of all workers; and almost half are younger than 35 years old.

Beyond these more immediate issues, the pandemic has made it impossible to ignore structural inequalities in multiple areas, including business. In 2017, an independent report carried out by Sir John Parker into BAME representation on Financial Times Stock Exchange (FTSE) boards set a target that all FTSE 100 companies would have at least one BAME board member by the end of 2021. For FTSE 250 firms, that target was 2024. In February, just before the first lockdown began, Sir John reported that while progress was made “in bringing female leaders into the boardroom, almost a majority of the boards of our FTSE 100 companies remain all-white domains.”

We should take on the lessons on the impact of lockdown measures on inequality as the country is entering into its second closure. Targeted financial support for those that most need it – including BAME communities and those with no recourse to public funds – must be made easily available. Most importantly, such measures must be put in place urgently.

JAN Trust has worked with vulnerable women and young people from BAMER and Muslim backgrounds since 1989 to help them improve their prospects. We advocate for an inclusive and culturally appropriate response to Covid-19 in multiple fronts, including through specific support for BAME-led businesses struggling in lockdown . You can support our work in these challenging times by donating, volunteering or making an effort to buy from local, BAME-led, community-based businesses online or where you can do so safely.

Posted in BAME, british, women | Tagged , , ,

COVID 19 – Scapegoating Minorities

Sensationalist media contribute to creating social tensions during the pandemic  

COVID-19 has brought to light the major inequalities that exist within our society, in particular the disproportionate effect on BAME communities. The media and government have been responsible for creating scapegoats out of minorities in the rise of cases through baseless allegations. The UK government’s inadequate response to the outbreak has led to an online cesspool of racism and islamophobia.

East Asians have been subjected to xenophobic violence and discrimination associated to the pandemic. Following the initial stages of COVID-19 the UK saw a 21% rise of anti – Asian hate crimes. Both the media and politicians have racialised the virus, referring to it as the ‘Wuhan virus’ or the ‘Chinese virus’ inciting anti- Asian sentiment in society. Earlier this year Vietnamese curator, An Nguyen, was dropped by an exhibitor at a UK art fair. A screenshot on of an email she received from Raquelle Azran, an art dealer, was posted on Twitter. Azran said her “presence on the stand would create hesitation on the part of the audience to enter the exhibition space” as “Asians are being seen as carriers of the virus.” Asians have been vilified because of fears of the virus and many have even been attacked. Jonathan Mok, an international student from Singapore, was attacked by two teenage boys as he was walking down Oxford Street. He posted photos of his injuries on Facebook and told the BBC one of the boys shouted, “I don’t want your virus in my country.” Mainstream media have been using images of Asian people in masks for COVID coverage even when unrelated to the article. These visual racist tropes have exacerbated fears and promoted bigotry both online and offline.

There has also been a slew of Islamophobic rhetoric. Craig Whittaker, Conservative MP for Calder Valley, West Yorkshire, told LBC radio that were “sections of our community that are just not taking the pandemic seriously.” When asked if he was referring to the Muslim community he said, “Of course. If you look at the areas where we have seen rises, and cases, the vast majority, not by any stretch of the imagination all areas, it is the BME communities that are not taking this seriously enough.”

The BAME community constitutes only 13% of the UK population and are disproportionately affected by the virus as seen in a report by Public Health England. The report shows that people of BAME communities are at an increased risk to contracting the virus as they are more likely to live in “urban areas, in overcrowded households, in deprived areas, and have jobs that expose them to a higher risk.” A high proportion of key workers are from the BAME community, representing 48% of the health and social care sector and 54% of the food production, process and sale sector. The first 10 doctors to have died due to COVID have all been from BAME backgrounds and 63% of the first 106 deaths of NHS were BAME.

Andrew Pierce, journalist for the Daily Mail tweeted, “If families gather for holy month of Ramadan will there be a huge spike in COVID cases. Doctors are very worried.” This is just an example of many mainstream commentators whose baseless allegations have contributed to fermenting social tensions.

Amid announcements of a lockdown mosques all over the country closed and complied with the social distancing regulations set by the government. As a symptom of the government’s failure to contain coronavirus there have been many headlines similar to Pierce’s tweet with scapegoating narratives. The Times posted an article with a headline that read, “Experts fear a spike in UK coronavirus cases during Ramadan.”

Muslims all over the country modified their traditions and celebrations in order to comply with public health directives on social distancing. Although the government were determined to ban congregational activities, on VE day we saw live reporting of street parties that did not adhere to guidelines but were met with positive coverage as residents had a sing-along. It was an insult to many keyworkers who lost their lives on the ‘frontline.’

Just hours before Eid- Al-Adha, the government announced local lockdowns in areas of Northern England that had a spike in cases. However, this did not include the closure of pubs and restaurants. The restrictions that were published late evening banned people in the affected areas from mixing with other households, curtailing Eid celebrations. Matt Hancock’s Twitter announcement was criticised as contradictory,  questions were raised on whether Christmas would be cancelled at 9pm on Christmas eve.

JAN Trust works nationally to encourage, empower and educate marginalised communities through a number of our projects and campaigns which combat issues such as extremism and hate crime. Find out more here.

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A Pandemic of Loneliness

How the capital is facing a new impact of Coronavirus as a result of the previous lockdown and in the light of new quarantine restrictions.

Since the beginning of the UK’s experience with the Covid-19 pandemic, the term ‘BAME’ has been widely mentioned amongst the many impacts on jobs, mental health and the environment reported in the news and by government officials. The reason for this?  Data and statistics have shown a correlation between Covid-19 and an increased risk for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities.  Initially this risk was one which saw one third of individuals being admitted to intensive care units being BAME despite only representing 14% of the population.

FIG 1: Source: Department for Education.

These statistics should not have come as such a shock with  BAME communities continuously throughout British history having lesser access to reliable housing, living in higher risk areas with high crime rates: these areas  have been disproportionately impacted due to the socio-economic positions of residents being lower than average.

 Only recently, the government refused to extend free school meal vouchers to children whose parents’ jobs and incomes were most likely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. This again disproportionately affected youth from underprivileged areas, of which three London boroughs, Islington, Hackney and Camden, house some of the largest populations of children eligible for free school meals in the country (Fig 1).

One can only imagine how stressful all of the disproportionately felt impacts of the pandemic on individuals are.  It should come as no surprise then that Black Asian and Minority Ethnic communities across the country have also been suffering with a far more insidious and invisible issue, mental health. Individuals from especially traditional cultures may also face the additional problem of stigmatisation of mental health issues within their own community.

With London being home to 60% of the UK’s Black population and 50% of the Bangladeshi population, it is culturally very diverse.  Despite this, there is dwindling trust and support between these communities and the National Health Service, an issue resulting from miscommunication and increasing pressure on the NHS as a whole. Mental health, an issue which has been so greatly fought for to gain wider recognition as a serious matter, has fallen through the cracks yet again, increasing inequalities further.

The reason for worsening inequality has largely been from the effects of quarantine, with families of Black and Caribbean backgrounds being more likely to rent social housing than their white counterparts. These styles of housing are notoriously known to often be in bad condition and lacking upkeep. This combined with low incomes fails to facilitate the making of a ‘home’. Increased time spent at home added to a lack of accessible outdoor space and nature – which would be stimulating to the human mind and feelings of safety – due to crime rates in areas with social housing create an unhealthy environment for people’s mental health. Restrictions on non-essential travel and the reduced provision of social care in deprived and inner-city locations have also resulted in higher levels of anxiety and depression.

Though this problem is the result of a larger institutional capacity to provide sufficient care and support for the population, there are a few things we can do to help one another with mental health.

  • Check in with your neighbours, friends and family
  • Invest in joining a local mutual aid group in your area
  • Take time to meditate, go for a socially distanced walk and perhaps take up a hobby  such as reading

If you have any concerns about yourself or an individual:

See Samaritans’ tips on how to start a difficult conversation.

Rethink also has advice on how to support someone who is having suicidal thoughts.

These free helplines are there to help when you’re feeling down or desperate.

Unless it says otherwise, they’re open 24 hours a day, every day.

Samaritans – for everyone
Call 116 123
Email 
jo@samaritans.org

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) – for men
Call 0800 58 58 58 – 5pm to midnight every day
Visit the 
webchat page

Papyrus – for people under 35
Call 0800 068 41 41 – 9am to midnight every day
Text 07860 039967
Email 
pat@papyrus-uk.orgChildline – for children and young people under 19
Call 0800 1111 – the number will not show up on your phone bill

Posted in BAME | Tagged , , , ,

COVID-19 and the Childcare Crisis.

The UK’s extensive childcare crisis amidst the pandemic has had disproportionate social and economic impacts on working mothers.

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact everyone, a shocking survey by the Campaign Group ‘Pregnant Then Screwed’ highlights that working mothers and pregnant women are being overlooked and their realities ignored in the government’s response to the pandemic.

Many months have now passed since lockdown was announced: a period during which 13 million working parents in the UK have struggled to balance paid employment and childcare, which JAN Trust previously discussed in a blog. This situation has placed a disproportionate responsibility of childcare on women who spent an average of an hour longer each day on childcare duties than men during lockdown, according to a recent ONS report.

Following the end of the “stay at home” message to the British public, the government advised employees to return to the workplace from August 1st, where it was safe to do so, this advice has variable changed in the following months. It is also important to recognise the key working parents who have had to continue to work during the pandemic, and those parents who had to return much earlier than the recommended date of August 1st and have to continue to do so. However, such recommendations failed to include any childcare provisions or extra support for working parents in its plans for economic recovery and a safe return to the workplace. The announcement of the relaxation of remote working guidance was released just as schools closed for the summer holidays, whilst childcare provisions including nurseries continue to offer reduced hours, and many activities and clubs remain closed.

This failure to place childcare provisions at the centre of the government policy has a huge disproportional impact on women. According to the survey exposing the scale of the UK’s childcare crisis, 81% of the working mothers surveyed said they need childcare to be able to work, yet 51% of mothers are unable to access the childcare they need to be able to return to work. Working mothers have been left in an impossible position. How is the UK economy and society expected to recover from the pandemic, if the infrastructure and services are not in place to support parents in returning to work – specifically women?

The data further reveals that out of the 15% of mothers who were made redundant during lockdown or expect redundancy within the next 6 months, a distressing 46% say that a lack of childcare provision played a role in their redundancy. The report also publishes that due to the lack of access to childcare during lockdown, 67% of key workers were forced to reduce their hours, whilst 45% do not have the childcare provisions that they need over the summer.

This disproportionate impact on women is not limited to mothers without childcare. The reality for working pregnant women is shocking; 11.2% of the 1,756 pregnant women who answered the survey have been made redundant or expect to be made redundant. This issue is further magnified for BAME women, where out of the pregnant women made redundant, 66.7% of BAME pregnant women believe their pregnancy was a factor in their redundancy. These statistics raise questions of societal inequality and racial disparity on a broader scale, as BAMER groups are statistically more affected by the pandemic.

Furthermore, this situation is two-fold. The survey highlights that 33% of those surveyed have been forced to give up a childcare space due to COVID-19. The challenges facing the childcare sector were apparent even before the pandemic. Due to the changing work patterns of parents, with an increased number of people working from home even as lockdown eases, it is feared that many early years childcare providers will face closure. This threatens the livelihoods and futures of the sector’s workforce, of which 97% are women, as well as the provision of childcare for parents.

The reality of the childcare crisis and failure by the government to deliver a gendered response to the pandemic is damaging women’s careers, threatens decades of progress in women’s equality in employment, and risks women’s future earning power. Whilst the government encouraged employees back to the workplace, the childcare sector and women must be at the heart of any economic recovery agenda to reverse the gender imbalance that has been magnified by COVID-19. The disproportionate economic impact of the pandemic on women is becoming increasingly evident. In the current situation, we must acknowledge those in our society who are struggling the most and question the extent to which the government is trying to support them.

As a charity that focuses on the needs of marginalised women, at JAN Trust we recognise the discrimination and inequality during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially regarding gender, ethnicity, and race. We must work together to demand an agenda for economic recovery which reflects the fundamental needs of women who should not be left behind or forgotten. Visit our website for more information.

Posted in BAME, british, discrimination | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

No, it’s not just coronavirus: pregnant BAME women deserve more than emergency measures

The pandemic exposed what BAME women have long known: poor pregnancy outcomes are a too common a reality for mothers from minority groups. Non-medical reasons play a part in the overall picture: in a country where BAME communities live in poverty and women’s pain is often dismissed, we need a systemic change to the way healthcare is approached.

In May, research from the British Medical Journal found that BAME women account for over half (56%) of pregnant women in UK hospitals with Covid-19. Specifically, of the 427 pregnant women admitted to hospital with Covid-19 between 1st March and 14th April 2020, the vast majority were from Asian and Black communities.

Acknowledgement of these findings led NHS England to urge doctors and midwives to take specific action to support pregnant women from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds during Covid-19.

The additional support is, of course, welcome. But women from BAME backgrounds had poor pregnancy outcomes even before the coronavirus outbreak. The 2019 MBRRACE-UK report found that the maternal mortality rate was higher among BAME communities, with Black women being five times more likely to die from pregnancy than their white counterparts, and Asian women being twice as likely.

The fact that this is happening in a country where the maternal mortality rate fell from 11 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1998 to 7 in 2017, raises serious concerns about health inequalities in the UK.

What are the factors contributing to poor pregnancy outcomes for BAME women?

The NHS is currently investigating the causes that lead to a significantly higher maternal mortality rate for black women.

While waiting for the findings from this research, we want to give a partial answer to this question by looking into non-strictly-medical reasons that affect the health of BAME groups.

Maternal health problems do not exist in isolation from the wider social context. Without oversimplifying, we can say that complications from childbirth are a result of lifelong health inequalities.

Our health is shaped by many factors, including the environment in which we are born, live, work and age. These socio-economic conditions are a core reason for disparities in the health status of different social groups.

In the UK, people from BAME communities are over twice as likely to live in poverty than white people. This in turn leads to systematic differences in health outcomes: a 2012 UCL study revealed a stark 21-year difference in life expectancy between newborns in central London and those born in the most deprived and diverse areas in the East of the city.

In this context, BAME women are no exception.

Among the social determinants of health, gender and ethnicity are particularly relevant to the analysis of pregnant BAME women’s conditions:

  • At the same time, racial bias impacts on pain assessment and treatment. Researchers in the US found that false beliefs about biological differences between blacks and whites inform medical judgments. Another study, published in 2016, gave evidence that black patients are half as likely to receive pain medication as white patients. Ethnic inequalities in the UK health system are under-researched, but patients have raised their voices to call out the racial bias within the NHS: among them there are also black women, living testimonies of how they are treated differently from expectant white mothers and of how their life-threatening conditions are dismissed due to pregnancy.

Going forward

Considering the bigger picture, changes to the model of care for this group of women cannot and must not be limited to emergency circumstances.

At JAN Trust we believe that complex social problems need complex solutions: for this reason, the core of our work is to support women and BAMER communities using a holistic approach. If we want to improve pregnant BAME women’s pregnancy experience, we should be adopting a similar way forward in the medical field.

In the Long-Term Plan, the NHS acknowledges the impact of both social and economic environment on our health. The official position is one that points at a stronger NHS action on health inequalities. When it comes to maternity and neonatal care, the objectives set out in the 2019 NHS strategy aim to “accelerate action to achieve 50% reductions in stillbirth, maternal mortality, neonatal mortality and serious brain injury by 2025”.

Until then, there is one thing we are sure of: commitments to tackle health inequalities would only work with a real holistic approach to healthcare, both during and after Covid-19.

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National Hate Crime Awareness Week 2020

Most people have heard of hate crimes, but what actually is a hate crime and how can we prevent them?

This year, National Hate Crime Awareness Week 2020 runs from the 10th to 17th of October. Whilst it is important to combat hate crime every day, this week seeks to draw special to attention to the insidious nature and harmful consequences of hate crime.

What is hate crime?

Hate crime is any incidence that breaks the law, physical or verbal, “violence or hostility directed at people because of who they are or who someone thinks they are” based on their transgender identity, religious beliefs, disability, sexual orientation, or race. Even if a person is not actually what the perpetrator thought they were or is not the person about whom the abuse is made, that person is still a victim of hate crime. Common examples of crimes that could be considered a hate crime include assault, murder, hate mail, and harassment. Similar actions that are not illegal or that target different characteristics from those listed are considered as hate incidents, which are not counted in hate crime numbers. These can take many forms, including but not restricted to verbal and physical attacks, unpleasant things being delivered to the house, or, as has become more prevalent in recent years, online abuse, particularly on social media.

Hate crime is part of a terrible cycle where the divisions in our society are increasing hate crimes year on year, which then widens these hostilities. There are severe negative consequences not only for society, but also for the mental health of victims. At a time when the world is dealing with a global physical disease and many would already consider us to be in the midst of a mental health crisis, particularly for young people, we cannot afford to be silent on the issue of hate crime and let this societal disease continue to fester.

What should we do?

The slogan for this year is ‘We Stand Together’. We must stand together to raise awareness on hate crime and stand against those who seek to promote hate, marginalise groups, and divide groups. Every person can play their own small parts to enact mass change. This could be by calling out prejudice, explaining differences in a non-hostile manner, or helping out someone from a different ethnicity who looks like they could some help.

We can begin by reporting hate crime, which can be done both by victim and witnesses. Where we encounter hateful language, we should call it out appropriately and report to the relevant authority, whether in person or through the reporting mechanism on the website itself. It is important to hold such people accountable so that they know that this kind of conduct is completely unacceptable in an open, liberal society.

Our public figures are vitally important in setting examples for society. They may be powerful and famous, but they are not immortal. They have an obligation to watch the kind of conduct and language they promote, and we should hold them to account when they fall short. Words are extremely powerful. There are many people who may see a public figure using racist language and either believe this to be true or see this as a valid excuse to act upon such language. Those of us who know better must stand together to use our voices to stick up for those who do not have a voice. If we see a anyone including politicians promoting hateful or divisive conduct, we can hold them accountable.

In the long-term, improve community cohesion and empower those groups most vulnerable to hate, such as minority ethnic communities. This requires fundamental structural change and engagement on the local level. At JAN Trust, we use a holistic approach to help empower our members of marginalised groups to tackle the problems facing their communities, whether through opportunities to learn practical skills or through our campaign projects, such as our Web Guardians™ programme. Through this programme, we empower Muslim women to combat online dangers like gangs and extremism, so that they can play an active role in strengthening their communities. If you would like to help us continue our vital work, please donate on our website.

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In memory of, Anne Marie Hutchinson OBE

It is with great sadness that the team at JAN Trust have been met with the passing of one of our astounding patrons, Anne Marie Hutchinson OBE QC (Hon). Anne had been unwell for some time and passed on the 2nd of October. Anne was a shining leader in her field of family law with a focus on child abduction. Anne was a partner at Dawson Cornwell, her continuous work in the field of family law and the movement of children around the world saw her awarded an OBE in 2002. Previous to this UNICEF recognised and awarded Anne the UNICEF child rights lawyer award in 1999.

Anne’s patronage was a natural one as Anne lent her skills to generating legal protection for women and girls vulnerable to forced marriage. The often pro-bono attention she paid to this often overlooked societal issue protected hundreds of women and girls from violent honour killings and forced marriage in their respective home countries. As well as being a JAN Trust patron Anne was also on the Board of Trustees at Reunite: International Child Abduction Centre amongst a series of other dedications.

Her work and impactful activism will be sorely missed. Our thoughts and condolences with her family, friends and colleagues.

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