We shouldn't ignore that some parts of our community are impacted more than others

Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney, writes in the May edition of Hackney Life.

Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney
The Government is keen to tell us that we are all in this together. And while I’ve been inspired about how Hackney has responded to this crisis as one community, it’s becoming increasingly clear that parts of our country and communities are impacted more than others.

More than two-thirds of the deaths from coronavirus in Hackney were residents born outside of the UK, and evidence suggests that people from non-white backgrounds are more likely to be at risk.  

And national data shows that a disproportionate amount of those who were in critical care beds with coronavirus are from black and ethnic minority backgrounds. Analysis shows overcrowding, education and health literacy, poverty and unemployment may also be risk factors.

These aren’t just numbers – these are family members, community leaders and even our NHS heroes, with over 60 percent of NHS workers who have died coming from ethnic minority backgrounds. Each death in our borough is a tragic loss being felt across our communities.

It’s these nurses, doctors, porters and cleaners, but also our Council care and social workers, waste and recycling teams and others who will see us through this pandemic – the people putting themselves at risk to help and save others.

I know that many of them, and our ethnic minority residents, will be worried about whether they are more at risk than others from this virus. The fact is that we don’t yet know whether there are clinical reasons for this, or whether it’s because people from BME backgrounds are more likely to take on lower-paid work that puts them at risk thanks to the ongoing inequality in our society. While it often leaves me angry, it also makes me even more committed to end inequality.

Scientists and the NHS are rightly looking into this. We are helping that work and asking our own questions, but it’s not enough for the Government to kick this into the long grass with a public inquiry. Our people need answers now. One lesson must be learned – we can no longer take the jobs and services that have been shown to be so vital to our country for granted.

We’ve been doing all we can to ensure that our response reaches the most vulnerable and excluded members of our community – working with our amazing community and voluntary sector, and listening to them when they tell us we need to do things differently. 

That includes our young people. I’ve joined videocalls with our Young Futures Commission over the last few weeks, and heard some of the huge challenges our young people are facing – whether it’s their mental health, learning at home or worrying about the health of their loved ones.

Hearing the pain and anger that some of our residents are feeling first-hand makes it even harder to watch the disrespect and selfishness shown by a minority of people using our parks and public spaces as ‘party zones’ – ignoring the fact that people are still dying in our country every day. Lockdown is not over. Our incredible staff are now spending their time clearing up this mess so that we can keep our parks open for the people who really need them to exercise and relax.  

But maintaining our parks – and delivering new and additional services across the borough to respond to this crisis – costs money. Our budget gap this year could be as high as £71million – equivalent to half of the entire government grant cuts we’ve faced since 2010 in just one year.

It’s hugely concerning that the Government has gone back on its word to fund our work, and I’d like to hear which of these services ministers think we shouldn’t be providing. Local councils are best placed to understand the local needs of their community – not Whitehall. I have met senior Government officials and ministers to ask that we are at the heart of contact tracing and make that financial case – and I’ll continue to stand up for our borough so that you continue to receive the services you need.
Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney

This article originally appeared in the 25 May edition of Hackney Life.