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Submission of Evidence to the Women & Equalities Committee on Unequal Impact of Covid19 on People with Protected Characteristics

Jennifer Blair

The individuals HBF works with have been subjected to atrocities including state-sponsored torture, human trafficking, religious / political persecution, forced labour, sexual exploitation, and gender-based, including ‘honour-based’ violence. Many of our clients have been repeatedly victimised and suffered multiple traumas. The majority of our clients are disabled due to the substantial and long-term adverse effect caused to them by their mental health, and often physical health issues. This protected characteristic then is intersected with race, sex and sexual orientation amongst other factors to compound the disadvantages that our clients face. In 2019 90% of our new clients suffered from Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

From decades of collective clinical experience and research, we are aware that survivors often have significant underlying physical and mental health conditions related to their history of trauma. These vulnerabilities may put them at risk of developing serious forms of Covid-19. Chronic medical conditions, such as  cardiovascular disease, diabetes and respiratory disease, are often poorly controlled due to deprivation and difficulty accessing healthcare (either historically or at present). Infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV and hepatitis may also be more prevalent within vulnerable communities. Some survivors may have physical disabilities and learning difficulties which exacerbate barriers to accessing healthcare. 

The present public health crisis has worsened barriers to healthcare generally, especially for those with language barriers or limited access to the internet, and increased levels of deprivation. Poor health and increased difficulty in accessing medical care mean that health conditions such as Covid-19, are likely to be presented late to health services and become more severe. This increases the risks to the public as well as to individuals.

This submission covers 6 key areas 

  1. Exacerbations in mental health as a result of lock down
  2. Access to healthcare 
  3. Access to food
  4. Access to accommodation and living in inappropriate accommodation
  5. Access to benefits and sufficient welfare support
  6. The impact of school closures

We give several recommendations on how to mitigate the negative effects of the Covid 19 crisis on people with protected characteristics, particularly regarding healthcare, education, access to food and benefits, accommodation and access to legal protection. 

Click the download link below to read the full submission.