Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Communities

Covid-19 has hit Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities disproportionately hard. People of BAME heritage are more likely to work in key worker and public facing roles in the NHS, social care, retail and transport, and are over-represented in the low-paid gig economy.

The Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC) found that 34% of critically ill coronavirus patients in England, Wales and Northern Ireland were from BAME backgrounds – even though they make up just 14% of the UK population. And the Office of National Statistics found that people of Black, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian and mixed ethnicity had significantly higher risk of death from Covid-19 than those of white ethnicity.

Public Health England has announced a formal review into how factors including ethnicity, gender and obesity affect people’s health outcomes from Covid-19.

How is the community and voluntary sector responding?

Black, Asian and minority ethnic organisations we've funded are responding to the crisis and supporting and advocating for their communities in a range of ways - from recording the impact of the pandemic, to providing emergency supplies and supporting people's mental health and wellbeing. They’re also looking to the future - identifying and sharing ways to address inequalities for the long-term.

Meeting immediate need

Across the UK, charities and community groups are getting urgent supplies of food, prescriptions and essential items to those in need. BAME groups are filling gaps in generalist provision, recognising the specific needs of their communities. Mosques, temples and faith groups are taking a leading role, like in Cardiff, where Al-Ikhlas Culture and Education Centre is providing free, hot Iftar meals during Ramadan.

Removing barriers, signposting and connecting

Grantholders are ensuring that essential advice reaches everybody who needs it: translating resources into different languages or formats, and offering recommendations adapted to the needs of different communities.

  • Information about rights. Black Thrive, a mental health partnership in the London Borough of Lambeth, helps people to understand their rights through community drop-in sessions, now held on Zoom, which have included discussions about burying the dead. They have also shared information on health rights, including care wishes and “Do Not Attempt Resuscitation” forms.
  • Advice in the right language, with tailored messaging. Grantholders are sharing advice in a range of languages, including British Sign Language and Easy Read. They’re using social media to signpost to resources, such as specific advice for pregnant women, community groups and transgender people of colour. Others are sending leaflets in community languages, recognising that not everyone uses social media.
    Meri Yaadain supports people from BAME backgrounds who are living with dementia. They've created information leaflets and resources with the Alzheimer’s Society and BME Health and Wellbeing, these offer specific information for organisations, carers and families, including tips and coping strategies for living in lockdown - in English and Bangla.
  • Helping Gypsy, Roma, Traveller communities to stay safe. Friends, Families and Travellers are sharing advice on the virus including how to stay safe and self-isolate on travelling sites, eviction, and sanitation.

Culturally-aware mental health services

People from some BAME communities face disproportionate prevalence of mental health conditions and barriers to treatment. Grantholders are providing services that tackle these barriers, address additional challenges and promote wellbeing.

  • Supporting existing clients online. In Birmingham, KikIt works with those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. As well as supporting clients by phone, it has launched an online platform, including webinars for vulnerable people in recovery. They also offer specific advice on recovery and fasting during Ramadan. Sharing Voices Bradford, offers mental health support and has taken its counselling sessions online and also delivered training to other therapists on culturally competent bereavement, grief support and counselling.
  • Sharing wellbeing advice and activities. In Glasgow, the Hwupenyu Health and Wellbeing Project for people living with HIV, is sharing games and challenges to help its service users connect. In Leeds, Shantona Women’s and Family Centre is sharing user-led materials, including easy Tai Chi exercises and the “Cooking with Zaynah” YouTube series where Zaynah and her mum encourage other families to cook healthy, versatile recipes and have fun together.
  • Creating spaces for mutual support. Moving online, charities and community groups are hosting sessions and virtual community drop-ins where people can share stories, concerns and tips for coping with lockdown. These include private Facebook pages or dedicated WhatsApp groups, encouraging people to connect over shared interests and concerns.

Practical support so people aren’t financially disadvantaged

We know that the lockdown has had a disproportionate financial impact on BAME communities, who may also face barriers to getting support. Grantholders are giving practical help to:

  • Access support people are entitled to. In Lisburn, Northern Ireland, the BAME service of community relations hub The Welcome House is helping clients access welfare support and signposting to other services. Race Equality First, an equality champion in South Wales, supports self-employed people such as taxi drivers and takeaway owners to access government support. Many have lost earnings and may be supporting two or three generations of their family.
  • Support to complete paperwork. Migrant Workers Sefton Community is supporting a growing number of clients from BAME groups, including African, Arab, Indian, Chinese communities. The charity has seen a huge increase in people seeking help, particularly to apply for Universal Credit or Settled Status. Clients often need English language support as well as advice on making an application.
  • Making sure people know what support is there. The Newport Yemeni Community Association has delivered leaflets in Arabic, with information about Covid-19 and signposting to services, including free school meals, which some members of the community are entitled to, but may not know how to access.

Our learning about supporting Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities

Covid-19 has highlighted existing inequalities across our society. Grantholders are tackling these underlying causes, as well as the immediate demands of the emergency. In both, there is an urgent need to put people and communities in the lead, recognising that they know best what is needed. We’ve heard the following key lessons to help ensure that we all learn from the pandemic.

Value and support lived experience and diverse voices

Across our work we see that people with lived experience, strengths-based approaches and co-production are crucial to successful delivery. Small grassroots and BAME-led organisations can offer a trusted voice, particularly at a time of crisis, and may be best placed to meet community needs. They are more likely to know, and have the trust of, minority communities than large or generalist charities with no track record of working with the community.

Learning from Ageing Better showed that where organisations have not offered specific support to BAME communities in the past, or where previous support has been withdrawn, this can exclude people and create barriers. One response was to work with people from minority communities to co-design and tailor support from the outset, rather than imposing a generic model that is not suitable. Another response was to find the right partners, trusted community organisations or brokers, like cultural and religious leaders, to help develop connection and trust.

Our Leaders With Lived Experience pilot worked with people to use their first-hand experience to create positive change for, and with, communities and people they share those experiences with. The pilot found that both lived and learnt experience are valuable and not mutually exclusive. But it also stressed the importance of training, team-building, shared language and meeting the needs of each individual. Trust was an important element and needed work to build, both through a commitment to transparency and openness, as well as by being clear about how to manage disagreements and communicate effectively in order to genuinely support culture change and address power.

It’s also important to note that every community has its own diverse voices and points of view, and that no one person can speak for everyone. Finding ways to hear a range of voices, and recognising the ways in which age, sex, gender, race, disability, class, sexuality and other identity issues affect people differently help ensure a nuanced and inclusive approach.

Look beyond the pandemic

The work of small and grassroots organisations often is done under the radar. Highlighting the experiences and contribution of BAME-led charities and community groups will be important part of rebuilding and recovery work over the coming months. Recording and sharing these achievements also demonstrates where and how additional support and resources will be needed.

  • Black Thrive has worked with other organisations to collect evidence for the UK Government’s review of the impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities. It’s set up an online survey, and launched a new WhatsApp number to make it easier for people to share their stories and show how the pandemic is, "hitting us differently".

Grantholders are also working to build resilience and tackle inequalities to stop new challenges becoming embedded after the crisis, particularly in their work with young people.

  • School closures mean teacher-assessed grades and rankings will be used for pupils who would be sitting exams this summer. This could bring the risk of conscious or unconscious bias towards Black, Asian and minority ethnic students. Grantholders are raising awareness and supporting pupils who may be affected, strengthening routes to life after school. Intercultural Youth Scotland’s work with young people includes online one-to-one meetings and workshops for school leavers; mentoring with BAME role models; and a virtual internship programme in design, multimedia and tech.
  • Babbasa, which supports less advantaged young people in Bristol, is working to build their sense of purpose, manage mental wellbeing and share new skills to help them thrive and succeed beyond the pandemic. In its new digital skills sharing festival, young people both connect and learn from each other.
  • You make it, which works to empower young, unemployed and underemployed women in Hackney, London, has launched a new 12-week programme for women aged 18-30 which offers online workshops, guest talks, weekly mentoring, access to coaching and fortnightly therapy.

Help us shape an equitable funding response to the crisis

The National Lottery Community Fund is committed to equity and this is at the forefront of our minds as we make difficult decisions about how best to target resources. We want our Covid-19 response funding to be accessible to people from all communities, including those who work to support groups experiencing disproportionate challenge and difficulty as a result of the crisis. We also want to ensure that our funding is used to reduce inequality and where possible contribute to a more equitable post-viral world.

We know that radical solutions will be needed, and we want to learn from, and with, our communities and grantholders to understand how we can play our part.

We are actively seeking feedback from stakeholders with expertise in reducing inequalities to keep us on the right path and help us to continuously learn and improve.

We’re making sense of what we’re seeing and hearing from our grantholders at pace, so there’ll be things we’ve missed, haven’t noticed yet or, perhaps, misinterpreted.

We welcome comments or challenge, so that we can continuously improve and develop, and make this work practical and useful.

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This page was last updated: 21 May 2020.