Covid-19 is not a 'leveller': specific attention to BME, disabled and older women's needs required

EVAW submission to Women & Equalities Select Committee outlines recommendations and calls for all decision making to consider specific needs.

There has been some talk of COVID-19 as a “great leveller”, but any examination of the reality reveals this is wrong.

The COVID-19 pandemic ‘landed’ in the UK on existing deep, social inequalities. Emerging trends and data already suggest that the crisis is not affecting people equally, from a likely increase in abuse of women and children in the home, to disproportionate levels of sickness, death and harsh economic impacts among BME groups, poorer communities and marginalised people. The developing policy response needs to recognise and mitigate accordingly.

We have submitted evidence to the Women & Equalities Select Committee Inquiry into Unequal impact: Coronavirus (Covid-19) and the impact on people with protected characteristics. In this submission we have set out the below recommendations:

On disabled women’s and girls’ rights and needs during the crisis

The Government should consult urgently with representatives from disability organisations including disabled women’s groups, and act to amend the law and policy and restore obligations to provide support and care to disabled women in the community as a right. The Government should then ensure that every level of government is aware of the change.

On BME women’s rights and needs during the crisis

The PHE inquiry into how and why BME people are experiencing death and serious illness very disproportionatelty during the crisis is of critical interest to and overlaps with abuse prevention. We urge the Government to follow the BMA demand now for ethnicity monitoring of all COVID- 19 cases. Decision-making on easing lockdown restrictions should fully factor in risks to BME communities and the need for protection and safety of all.

The emergency funding must include an effective ringfence to ensure that the vital, life-saving BME women-led local support services are open and available to the women who need it.

On older women’s rights and needs during the crisis

Older women should feature as a specific category of assessment when planning to ease lockdown restrictions and to implement longer-term shielding. The risk of abuse on very prolonged isolation should determine how this is recommended, communicated and provided for. All statutory services should be reminded of the reality and hidden nature of abuse of older women. There should be a specific action plan aimed at predicting and preventing abuse of older women who are shielded, based on advice from women’s abuse experts.

Read our submission in full here: EVAW Coalition Submission to WESC Covid19 Equalities Inquiry, April 2020

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