Blog: This avoidable crisis

The Lawrence Review endorses UNISON’s view that decades of discrimination have left Black communities over-exposed and under-protected from COVID-19

Guest blog by national equalities secretary Gloria Mills

The Labour Party has published its review into the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus crisis on Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.

The report, led by Baroness Doreen Lawrence concluded that BAME people have been disproportionately hit by the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of “decades of structural injustice, inequality and discrimination”.

UNISON contributed to the round table discussions and submitted evidence to the review, highlighting experiences of members working on the frontline to protect the public and save lives.

The report is scathing. It was ‘an avoidable crisis’ Baroness Lawrence concluded.

The Lawrence Review makes several recommendations. The report echoes the UNISON view that decades of discrimination have left Black communities over-exposed and under-protected and occupational exposure was a key risk factor.

The findings and recommendations in the final report reinforce our calls, including:

  • The government must go further and set out an urgent plan for tackling the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on BAME communities this winter.
  • The introduction of a national strategy to tackle health inequalities backed by strong actions; clear ministerial accountability and targets to close the gaps in negative health outcomes, such as the difference in mortality between Black and white women in pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Improved training for all health and care staff to tackle racism; targets to improve the diversity of NHS governance and improvements to the Workforce Race Equality Standard.
  • Ensure COVID-19 cases from the workplace are properly recorded.
  • Strengthen COVID-19 risk assessments to ensure consistency and to give workers more confidence.
  • Improve access to PPE in all high-risk workplaces.
  • The government should enact section 1 of the Equality Act which covers socio-economic disadvantage and should also take action on mandatory ethnicity pay gaps on a similar basis to the reporting of the gender pay gap.
  • Have a strong mechanism for parliamentary accountability and clear milestones to measure success during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to the review, Keir Starmer has committed to implementing a race equality act’ to tackle structural racial inequality at source” should he lead the Labour Party into government.

And UNISON will continue to press the current government, employers and public agencies to take urgent action to mitigate the higher risk of deaths to the Black community as the UK enters a second spike of cases this winter.