UK BAME Charities: The Covid-19 Challenges
The British government’s announcement of a new package of support for the voluntary sector’s frontline services, estimated to be in the region of £750m, is a welcomed boost for many organisations desperate for financial assistance in the most challenging of circumstances. But what does that mean for UK BAME Charities?
The Coalition of Race Equality Organisations (CORE) and other UK BAME Charities and organisations highlight the concern that diverse communities are set to face disproportionate impacts that are not being adequately included or considered in the decisions being made by government and civil society leaders.
Evidence shows these communities have already been hit hard by austerity and are twice as likely to be living in poverty. From immediate to life-long impacts, the vast effects of Covid-19 will be wide ranging, reinforcing and deepening existing racial inequalities across health, housing, education, employment, criminal justice and beyond.
Diverse communities are working on the front lines in our NHS, supermarkets and delivering other essential services, putting themselves and their family lives at higher risk of exposure to the virus. Many groups are genetically subjected to underlying health conditions like diabetes, further compounding risks.
Our communities face immediate threats due to public health guidance and government financial support lacking nuance and culturally sensitive understanding, following a similar pattern to post-Grenfell response. BAME groups are overrepresented in a number of areas that are impacted by the virus such as homeless populations, overcrowded homes, self-employed and those with no recourse to public funds. Emergency legislation poses further concerns as we see the introduction of new police powers.
There are between 9,000 -10,000 UK BAME charities and community groups operating nationally, 65 per cent of which have an average turnover of less than £10,000, annually. Many of these organisations will be struggling to continue with their services, unsure of any options for emergency support and if they fit with government schemes. Charities at the frontline are seeing volunteer-led community projects halted, as the income they derive from serving their respective community has been wiped out overnight through distancing rules.
At this moment in time, the specific lens of charity leaders and communities is firmly fixed on making sure that there is an equitable distribution of the resources to services and community projects that are often sidelined in this type of exercise. From Grenfell, to the Youth Endowment Fund, we have seen that those that are closest in understanding where the most effective impact can be made are too often excluded from decision-making, with little influence on the process of eligibility, or the mechanisms of distribution of resources.
The package falls well short of the £4bn estimate that NCVO has identified as the national need. The government needs to ensure there is effective representation, consultation and engagement in emergency funding structures from BAME leaders. At a practical level CORE supports ACEVO and NCVOs call for funders to: Firstly, bolster and mobilise organisations that are working on the front line and directly contributing to tackle the impact of the coronavirus. Secondly, provide a ‘Stabilisation Fund’ to enable charities to stay afloat and continue operating during the pandemic. Thirdly, funders such as the National Communities Lottery Fund, seize the initiative, be bold in their inclusion of decision makers and avoid the mistakes of the past.
Finally, in terms of the threat of Covid -19, it has been said ‘we are all in this together’. We all share this view, but we are also aware that the charity sector’s structural shape, when we emerge from this emergency, and the quality of our resilience, will be dependent on what steps are taken in the here and now ensuring decisions do not have the unintended outcome of once again pushing BAME communities to the margins.
Author: Kunle Olulode, Director of Voice4Change
Kunle has a wealth of experience gained from running policy teams in the voluntary sector and local government and a former Convenor of Camden Black Workers Group. An active campaigner within the trade union movement, he has a strong record of building partnerships with leading national and international organisations, having also worked abroad in Spain and in the USA for groups such as the Catalan institute in Barcelona, Tommie Smith Youth Movement and 100 Black Men of Southern California. He has keen interest in the arts particularly Black History and Film and was a founder member of the award winning Camden Black History ForumEmail