Camden Council has a track record in seeking to address systemic discrimination and structural inequalities. This is not a new issue for the Council, but Covid-19 has both highlighted and exacerbated it. The Black Lives Matter movement is credited with amplifying energies in the Council on the issue. This is important as fatigue can all too easily set in where an issue is so long-standing and difficult to change.
There was an early recognition of the disproportionate impact of the pandemic and of the steps required for its management on people of Black, Asian and other ethnic backgrounds. The Council had been alerted by trusted leaders and anchors in the community prior to national data becoming available. It was aware of the complex systems that cause such health inequalities to thrive, encompassing the social, economic, cultural and environmental determinants of health.
A senior level ‘Black, Asian and Other Ethnic Inequalities and COVID-19 Working Group’ was established. Evidence of lived experience and structural inequalities was gathered from residents and partner organisations and analysed. Midpoint findings were published in July 2020 to ensure transparency. ‘Building Equal Foundations: Tackling the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black, Asian and other ethnic communities in Camden’ was published in August 2020, with a detailed Action Plan for its implementation.
The initiative is rooted in the Camden 2025 Vision with its ambition to create a place that works for everyone, and where everybody has a voice.
The working group reviewed evidence across five disproportionality focus areas: health inequalities; residents at risk; children and young people; housing supply and overcrowding; and employment and the labour market. These topics revealed how COVID-19 had starkly exposed the cost of accepting high levels of health and social inequality and the need to co-design services and solutions alongside the communities, rather than just deliver them. The online remote nature of the evidence gathered was credited with allowing the Council to hear new and different voices, in particular young people.
The final action plan covers six calls for action so that people from Black, Asian or other ethnic backgrounds: live healthy, independent and happy lives; have the best start to life and the opportunity to develop all their capabilities; access the work that is right for them; secure funding and capacity building for voluntary organisations; and live in a home where they feel safe; and so that Camden’s workforce feels safe and supported to do their job.