Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Covid-19: BAME and Working-class Communities

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons on 6th May 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

What recent assessment she has made of the disproportionate effect of the covid-19 outbreak on (a) BAME and (b) working-class communities.

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch The Exchequer Secretary

Understanding the impacts on different groups and the factors underpinning them is extremely complex. It is important that we have the right information on which to base our action, which is why, as I mentioned earlier, we have asked Public Health England to review covid-19 outcomes among different groups and to explore the reasons for disparities. It is also why the Government have taken numerous steps to protect those who would be most disadvantaged by this disease.

Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

We do have some other information: according to Office for National Statistics figures, the coronavirus mortality rate in the most deprived areas, such as Elswick in Newcastle, is more than twice that in the least deprived areas—no doubt that is a consequence of health inequalities, which have risen sharply in the past 10 years—and those on lower incomes are more likely to be in frontline occupations. Now we have learned that the infection rate in the north-east is the highest in the country. What is the Minister doing to address the disproportionate impact of the virus on BAME and working-class communities?

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch The Exchequer Secretary

The hon. Lady is right. We are increasingly worried about the number of deaths in deprived areas of the country. As she said, the rate of deaths in the most deprived areas was more than two times higher than in other places, but it is important to note that the underlying factors are extremely complex—these things may be related, but we do not have definitive evidence about the relationship between covid-19 and deaths in deprived areas. We are taking many steps to look after people from disadvantaged backgrounds and from working-class communities. We have protected people’s incomes and jobs, supported businesses and looked at universal credit and statutory sick pay. We are doing every single thing we can to make sure that individuals and communities are protected, on the whole, from any adverse impact of the lockdown.