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Major changes needed in Wales to address BAME health inequalities, says Drakeford

30th Oct 2020
Major changes needed in Wales to address BAME health inequalities, says Drakeford

First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford (Credit: CPMR – Conference/Flicker)

Hamed Chapman

The Welsh Government has admitted that there is still a “long way to go” to address entrenched inequalities experienced by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people, highlighted by the disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are reconfirming our long-held commitment to advancing equality for all,” First Minister, Mark Drakeford, said in response to a report he commissioned to ‘identify immediately necessary measures to protect communities in Wales’ and recommend longer-term work needed to address any inequalities.

“We have to look carefully and honestly at the structures and systems in society, and consider where and how to bring about change that benefits everyone,” said Drakeford who is also Leader of Welsh Labour Party.

“Now is a time for action, and this Government is committed to creating a lasting legacy for Wales, where there is fair treatment and advancement for all.”

The report into the factors influencing negative Covid-19 outcomes for individuals from BAME backgrounds was chaired by Emmanuel Ogbonna, Professor of Management and Organization at Cardiff University.
It made more than 30 recommendations to the Welsh Government to address the socio-economic and environmental risks it highlighted.

“There’s an overall theme running through our research for this report. It centres on long-standing racism and disadvantage and the lack of BAME representation within decision-making processes”, Professor Ogbonna said.

“The coronavirus pandemic is, in some respects, revealing the consequences of a lack of action on race equality. Many of the issues we’ve highlighted have been identified and discussed previously, but they haven’t been addressed in any systematic and sustained way.”

Several key socio-economic and environmental risk factors are included in the report, including:

♦ Communication of health information and how effective it is

♦ Cultural issues relating to the suitability of health and social services for BAME communities

♦ Income & employment insecurity, which is experienced disproportionately by BAME communities

♦ Poor quality of ethnicity data, which is preventing accurate analysis

♦ Housing overcrowding and environment

♦ The financial burden created by migration status

♦ The role of structural and systemic racism and disadvantage

Drakeford said the report was “a sobering and powerful one, which highlights the entrenched inequalities experienced by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people in Wales. Major change is needed throughout society to address these inequalities.”

He argued that the Welsh Government has already taken several steps along the road, but recognised “there is a long way to go.” He also reconfirmed his Government’s “long-held commitment to advancing equality for all” and would “look carefully and honestly at the structures and systems in society, and consider where and how to bring about change that benefits everyone.”

The devolved government has been working to develop a Race Equality Action Plan, but which has been delayed by the pandemic, Drakeford pledged that it will “provide the foundation for bringing about systemic and sustainable change for Wales” and will be completed before next year’s elections.

When responsibilities did not come under their limited mandate, he insisted he would “continue to use every lever at our disposal to influence the UK Government to address those (relevant) recommendations.”

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