Many constituents have contacted me recently to raise their concerns over a recent report from Public Health England which published the conclusions of its review of disparities in risks and outcomes of those infected by COVID-19.
The report, which can be accessed on the UK Government website, looked into the disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19 in England and confirms that the risk of dying among those diagnosed with Covid-19 is higher in those in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups than in White ethnic groups.
I am incredibly concerned about this and wish to assure my constituents that this is an issue myself and my SNP colleagues are taking very seriously.
Myself and other SNP MPs have been holding the Government to account for its policies which exacerbate risk for BAME people.
No Recourse to Public Funds is a little-known Home Office policy which is widely imposed upon those from overseas who choose to make the United Kingdom their home. A massive number of people living and working in the UK are deemed by the UK Government as having No Recourse to Public Funds, meaning they cannot access any form of benefit or financial support.
At this time of unprecedented crisis, this policy is leaving people - many of whom are from BAME communities - in destitution. This policy is a structural inequality - the very kind that the Black Lives Matter movement is shining a light on.
As my Glasgow colleague Patrick Grady MP recently pointed out to the UK’s Equalities Minister, this policy is not just unequal; it is inhumane. No Recourse to Public Funds is more that that though. Because of the incredibly disproportionate impact it has on BAME people, it is a racist policy.
Myself and my colleagues have consistently been calling for this policy to be changed, and will continue to do so.
Another policy that requires urgent review is that of the earnings threshold for Statutory Sick Pay. This urgently needs to be lowered to ensure that people are not faced with having to working when they are ill or should be isolating. Given the findings of the report, people in BAME communities may be particularly affected by this; having no other option than to work even if is not same to do so.
The Scottish Government have asked Public Health Scotland to undertake a review of the evidence so that we have a robust understanding of how COVID-19 is impacting on minority ethnic communities. The work undertaken by Public Health Scotland indicates that right now, based on the very limited data available, the proportion of ethnic minority patients among those seriously ill with Covid-19 appears no higher than the proportion in the Scottish population generally. However, the Scottish Government have been clear that more research is needed and will continue to monitor the situation closely and improve the analysis as more data becomes available.
The Scottish Government's Race Equality Action Plan Programme Board met last month to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on Scotland’s minority ethnic communities, which cuts across all portfolio areas and requires co-ordinated action. They will play an active role in overseeing and supporting cross-portfolio activity to inform and support the work.
The Scottish Government are putting equality and human rights at the heart of its response to Covid-19 and have acted to provide support to those groups and communities that need it most, from its £350 million community support fund. This has included over £2.3 million to support increased helpline / online support for a range of group, including minority ethnic young people, and £100,000 to support minority ethnic older people to get support with hot meals, grocery deliveries and regular telephone check-ins.
If you are a constituent who has concerns or comments about any of the issues in the post, please do feel free to get in touch with me.