Calls made to reduce Calderdale equality gap in recovery from COVID

Underlying equality gaps which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic must be closed if the whole of a borough is to prosper in the future, health and care chiefs heard.

Sunday, 13th June 2021, 3:00 pm
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Calderdale Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board, which includes council, services, health, social care, voluntary and community group representatives, heard the groups of people worst affected by the pandemic were women, young people, ethnic communities, disabled people, refugees and people who were in low income at work.

A very in-depth cross-party report into inequalities arising from the pandemic was presented by Coun Roisin Cavanagh.

Questions were asked about education, taining, employment, financial viability and looking to the future.

“Some of the people in these groups experienced an intersection of those issues.

“We wanted to gather the real life voices of people,” she said.

Coun Cavanagh (Lab, Luddenden Foot) said the pandemic had proved expensive for these groups in different ways, for example people had to buy PPE, some had to have food delivered because they were shielding and this was more expensive, and they faced increased digital costs, when they were previously just managing.

“People on really low incomes were suddenly unable to manage,” she said.

The report highlighted instances of parents trying to home school their children using a mobile phone.

Debt advice which they could previously access was not available and one food parcel group said some people were unable to buy food because they were servicing debt.

“Creditors can take 30 per cent of benefits to pay back debt, so it is unsustainable for people to maintain their life costs,” said Coun Cavanagh.

For young people, work experience and apprenticeships had disappeared.

Women had been predominantly affected. “Every single group of women from different backgrounds said they had done the majority of home schooling and dealing with children feeling anxious.

“That’s not to say men didn’t do anything, but women did the bulk,” said Coun Cavanagh.

The effects included mental health issues and strain put on the voluntary sector, she said.

Coun Megan Swift (Lab, Town) said the board needed to keep tabs on the report’s recommendations to ensure these were not lost, Dikipa Kaushal, Chief Executive Officer at VAC (Voluntary and Community) agreed the voluntary sector was feeling “precarious” and Coun Ashley Evans (Lib Dem, Warley) said historic and existing inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic needed to be tackled.

The council’s Head of Adult Services and Wellbeing, Iain Baines, agreed that was right and also needed national discussion.

Discussing well-being strategy, with board members agreeing fewer aims more closely pursued would be more productive, Director of Public Health, Deborah Harkins, agreed.

“We need to build back fairer as we recover from COVID,” she said.