Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on ethnic inequalities in health and social care – Have your say!

Introducing a King’s College London study examining inequalities experienced by people from racial and ethnic minority groups working in health and social care during COVID-19. (570 words)

Prof Stephani Hatch

Leading the study: Stephani Hatch, Professor of Sociology and Epidemiology in the Department of Psychological Medicine, King’s College London

We have launched a study to help improve working conditions and to tackle the inequalities experienced by people from racial and ethnic minority groups working in health and social care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based at King’s College London, we are working in partnership with NHS England Workforce Race Equality Standard, NHS Confederation and the Royal College of Nursing. The study findings will be used to develop education and training materials (e.g. Virtual Reality training) available nationally to all staff, specifically to better support and improve the workplace experiences of NHS and social care staff from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups.

COVID-19 pandemic

The pandemic has shone a light on existing inequalities that have a great impact on Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. These communities are approximately 14% of the population in England and Wales, yet they have had greater exposure to the virus and are more likely to have poorer outcomes, including severe health complications and death. We have also seen that higher numbers of racial and ethnic minority health and social care workers have died from COVID-19. Despite making up 21% of the NHS workforce, 63% of those who died from COVID-19 were from racial and ethnic minority groups. What is less often known and discussed is that health and social care staff from racial and ethnic minority groups experience greater levels of workplace harassment and discrimination compared to other staff and these experiences have been compounded by the pandemic. This can have long-lasting effects on their health, wellbeing, and their ability to do their job. Continue reading

Health inequalities among older BAME groups in later life

Dr Nayyara TabassumDr Nayyara Tabassum is Evidence Officer in the Centre for Ageing Better. (917 words)

In March of this year when we were still learning about COVID-19 in the UK, I remember listening to a journalist on the telly saying the coronavirus does not discriminate – it infects and kills everyone, rich or poor, young or old. But as more news started filtering in, a pattern of who the virus infected the most began emerging. Even while scientists and public health personnel were grappling with this new virus and how it spreads, one of the earliest news trends of the pandemic is that the virus seemed to affect particular groups, such as older people, those with underlying health conditions, those living in deprived areas, lower-skilled workers, those working in social care, those living in care homes and BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) groups more than any other group.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on health inequalities that disproportionately affect older people and BAME people, something also confirmed by the recent PHE report published in June 2020.

This blog looks at what we know about health inequalities of older BAME groups, what we need to know more about and what are some key recommendations to promote healthy ageing that is inclusive for all. Continue reading

Keeping “Everybody in” – the need to move from hotels to Housing First

Stan Burridge is an ex-rough sleeper and an HSCWRU Peer-researcher. He is Director of Expert Focus, a user-led organisation that supports the involvement of people with lived experience in homelessness research and policy. (1,029 words)

Over the past few weeks, I have been thinking about all the people who have been swept from the streets and into hotels because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The old mantra that it was impossible to house all those sleeping rough has been scotched. This event signifies how, with the right amount political will and financial investment, radical change can happen at scale and pace.

Thinking about the next steps for Everybody in (the policy of offering people sleeping rough a hotel room for duration of the lockdown) I would like to urge policymakers to continue to pursue radical change (i.e. doing the right thing). Looking for a real solution to homelessness means taking note of the ‘overwhelming evidence that highlights the effectiveness of Housing First.’[i]

Housing First affords people a permanent home (their own front door) with no requirements beyond accepting the help of a trusted worker to maintain their tenancy. There is no requirement to ‘move on’ with other areas such as addiction and mental health issues, and even if someone were to lose their home, the trusted worker will continue to work with them. Continue reading

Resource for day centres – Guide for adult day centres to ‘unlock lockdown’ safely

Caroline Green and Katharine Orellana, Post-Doctoral Fellows, National Institute for Health Research Applied Research Collaboration South London. (721 words)

On 23 March 2020, most of England’s population was placed into ‘lockdown’ due to the novel Coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic taking hold across the UK. This was an unprecedented move by the government and meant that social care services, including day centres for older people or those with social care needs mostly closed to regular users.

Several months later, the government is taking a step-by-step approach to ‘unlocking’ society, with social clubs and community centres allowed to open again from 4 July 2020. But, with the pandemic not yet subsided, day centres are faced with the task of making their services safe and reducing the risks of infections to service users and staff. This is particularly important for day centres, as they may serve groups of people at risk of being seriously affected by the virus, such as people with underlying health conditions. Continue reading

The Challenge of Self-Isolating in Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

Emily HillIn this blog, Emily Hill from Harbour Housing, a homeless charity in Cornwall, describes how their service has supported people living in temporary accommodation to leave hospital safely during the pandemic. She highlights some of the challenges in making sure everyone has the opportunity to self-isolate when living in a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) (903 words)

Harbour Housing provides supported accommodation across Cornwall for people with multiple and complex needs, including those who have recent experience of homelessness. The accommodation is provided in what are called Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs). Residents have their own rooms but share communal areas such as bathrooms and kitchens.

Clinical advice and guidance on reducing the risk of infection and severe illness among the homeless population as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19) is clear that HMO’s could pose risks. In order to reduce these risks, the guidance suggests that individuals should be provided with their own room and bathroom facilities wherever possible. Where this is not possible, providers should make best use of provision and should undertake regular cleaning of shared facilities.

Hygiene zoneThe first step in Harbour Housing’s response to keeping residents safe from COVID-19 was to provide everyone with an information briefing, ensuring staff had time to talk through any concerns. Video screens in the properties also relayed NHS advice about hygiene and hand washing. Washing facilities and hand dryers were installed in the entrance lobby at each building. This meant that everyone had the opportunity to wash their hands before entering the property. In addition, thermal imaging CCTV cameras were installed to read the temperature of every person entering the building. This was to ensure that symptoms could be caught early. Continue reading

How are older people coping with digital technology during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Dr Nayyara TabassumDr. Nayyara Tabassum is Evidence Officer in the Centre for Ageing Better. (749 words)

Online grocery shopping has made lives very easy. With just a few clicks, you can order everything from a fridge to hand sanitisers (if there’s any in stock!). But I didn’t realise how challenging that could be for some sections of people. A couple of days back, while chatting with my 76-year-old neighbour John, he mentioned how difficult it was for him to place online grocery orders. As a first-time online banking user, his card activity was flagged as suspicious and by the time he managed to get verified, he lost his delivery slot.

There are so many older people like John who have had to rely on using the internet for the very first time during the COVID-19 pandemic. Banks need to make the authentication processes easier, especially for first time digital shoppers. According to 2019 ONS figures on internet users, almost half the UK population of people at 75 and over (47%) have never used the internet. The fact that John uses the internet at all is quite fortunate. The good news is that internet use in the 65-74 age group is increasing – it rose from 52% in 2011 to 83% in 2019, and the current situation is likely to speed that increase. Continue reading

The COVID-19 Effect On Flexible Working: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Dr Nayyara TabassumDr. Nayyara Tabassum is Evidence Officer in the Centre for Ageing Better. (828 words)

In the UK, as soon as the lockdown was announced by Boris Johnson in his televised address on 23 March 2020, one of the first things a lot of employers did was to announce that all staff would need to start working flexibly, with immediate effect. Overnight, companies that did not even have a flexible working policy, reviewed their policies and allowed employees to start working from home.

Research vs Pre-COVID Reality

While research has always shown the business benefits of flexible working on employee productivity and wellbeing, there was not enough buy-in from employers and there were lots of misconceptions and stigma attached to flexible working.

Now with the COVID-19 outbreak, employers have wholeheartedly adopted technology for staff to continue working remotely during lockdown. Job sectors, such as the insurance and banking sectors, which were previously quite averse to flexible working, also allowed staff to work flexibly during the lockdown. The results of this flexible working experiment thanks to the pandemic was that a lot of job sectors are now acknowledging that businesses can continue as usual even when staff work flexibly from home. Continue reading

Embracing New Technology and Social Media to Prevent Homelessness: How COVID-19 is impacting on support workers in the criminal justice system

In this post, Stan Burridge, Director of Expert Focus (a user-led consultancy), reports on how COVID-19 is impacting on workers who support people leaving prison to find accommodation and resettle in the community. He speaks to two workers from the Cumbria Offender Service run by Humankind, a medium-sized voluntary sector organisation based in the north of England. (1,388 words)

Thinking about your job before the lockdown, what is your normal role like?

There are a number of different roles I play supporting offenders who have either been released after serving a prison sentence or as part of a community-based sentence involving probation. All of my work fits into the wider picture of helping them to find a stable platform (securing accommodation and claiming benefits is part of that process) so they can engage with other services as part of their sentencing commitments but also as a way of moving forward and hopefully away from committing crime.

What are the difficulties in finding accommodation for people leaving prison, especially as housing is at a premium?

There is a real difficulty in getting people housed and in an ideal world everyone who was released from prison would have somewhere to go, but that is not the case. Often when accommodation is found it is in areas where there is a lot of crime and drug use, so it seems as though we are often perpetuating people’s problems. Options to place people in less deprived areas are limited and the harsh reality is if I couldn’t get someone housed in those sorts of areas, I probably wouldn’t be able to get them housed anywhere, so they would be homeless. Continue reading

COVID-19 pandemic – the view from Australia

Dr Bernadette Moorhead is Lecturer in Social Work and Human Services at the Wagga Wagga campus of Charles Sturt University in New South Wales, Australia. This is the first in a series of dispatches from the academic social work community across the world as services adapt to conditions under the COVID-19 pandemic. (309 words)

Hello from Australia,

To say that social workers have faced major challenges in recent months in Australia is perhaps an understatement. The community services sector was already under significant strain at the beginning of this year, as practitioners were on the frontline of support for families and communities devastated by unprecedented bushfires. Disaster recovery and ecosocial work have been growing areas of practice in Australia, and certainly will continue to be as many communities, especially in rural and regional areas, try to recover from the trauma of the bushfires, as well as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic that has decimated many local economies.

Despite these crises, we are seeing a great deal of innovative practice, as well as collective action, with Australian social workers making extensive use of online platforms to share resources, provide updates and deliver professional development opportunities. Face to face contact with client groups continues in many fields, especially child welfare (in line with social distancing provisions). We have also seen a major increase in the use of technology to stay connected with service participants. An important and much needed injection of government funds across the sector has been used by some organisations to purchase devices for client groups, such as iPads and phones, in order to enhance their access to support services.  However, there are still large gaps in infrastructure across the country, which makes accessing the internet a challenge for many, especially disadvantaged communities. The need for further advocacy and community development practice that improves infrastructure so that people can stay connected is at the forefront of our minds.

If you are interested in hearing more here is a 6 min podcast by the National President of the Australian Association of Social Work, Christine Craik.

Take care everyone and stay safe.

Bernadette Moorhead, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Australia.

Dr Moorhead recently co-authored an article with Jill Manthorpe and Mary Baginsky: An Examination of Support and Development Mechanisms for Newly Qualified Social Workers Across the UK: Implications for Australian Social Work, Practice, 32:2, 145-159.

Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia

This is the first in a series of dispatches from the academic social work community across the world as services adapt to conditions under the COVID-19 pandemic. The series is co-ordinated by Dr Mary Baginsky, Senior Research Fellow at the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce, King’s College London. See a listing of this Unit’s COVID-19 related work.

From desk to doorstep

Living well with dementia is important, though there may come a time when initiating social contact becomes a challenge. For some people living with dementia there may be increased isolation. For those living with a partner or family and friends, as dementia progresses their daily care needs may be hard to manage or support.

Attending a day service which offers stimulating activities, whilst at the same time providing respite for family carers, benefits not only the person with dementia, but also helps families continue their support.

The COVID-19 lockdown brought an end to this overnight.

Foreseeing the psychological or emotional consequences of the loss of day centre support, one day centre has switched to offering daily support via phone calls to its former attenders and their carers. Additionally, as day centre staff have great experience in providing ‘customer care’ to relatives, they quickly became part of the COVID-19 Emergency Shielding Residents Response. Continue reading