Samuel L Jackson gets first hand look at Calderdale's plan to support its black, Asian and ethnic minority communities

As well as developing an action plan to better support Calderdale’s black, Asian and ethnic minority communities through the pandemic,  top Hollywood actor Samuel L. Jackson also received literature relating to it.

By John Greenwood - Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 11th March 2022, 7:15 am

Regional health partnership support officer for Calderdale Council and West Yorkshire Integrated Care System (ICS), Pam Bhupal, said teams managed to give a pack produced by Calderdale anti-racism movement to the actor, recently filming in Halifax at the Piece Hall, where scenes for Marvel’s new movie Secret Invasion were being shot.

Calderdale Health and Well being Board were reviewing progress on a health action plan to help reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the borough’s black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities

Ms Bhupal said a lot of work had been done to protect BAME communities during the two years of the COVID-19 pandemic so far.

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Samuel L Jackson seen on set during filming of the Marvel Disney Plus series Secret Invasion at The Piece Hall (Photo by Gerard Binks/Getty Images)

Conversations had taken place with public health teams, residents, and community organisations about their thoughts and fears about the pandemic.

Six weeks into lockdown, an eastern European woman asked for her thoughts had responded “what pandemic?” indicating the challenges.

She had no TV or smartphone and teams began realising that communicating messages was a key issue.

There was a lot of fear in communities that if anyone caught the virus and needed to go into hospital they would never come out again – even two months ago this was still an issue, said Ms Bhupal.

Goals were set by the partnership, all in the context of the journey through the last two years, during which Calderdale was subject to the longest period of restrictions nationally.

The resulting action plan had seen the start of sustaining and strengthening a lot of relationships that were not there before the pandemic, for example the support given to taxi and private hire companies.

“We have really listened to what people have said to us and acted accordingly, and vice-versa,” she said.

Progress towards the goals was going in the right direction towards creating a resilient team, creating COVID-aware communities and seeing a return of the trust in health services that seemed to be undermined at the start of the pandemic, said Ms Bhupal.

Underlying all of this was the council’s anti-poverty strategy, she said.

Early identification to stop the virus spreading into communities, with testing and offering the vaccine in places where large numbers of people congregated was a step taken, with Asda supermarket at Halifax being the largest site.

Teams worked to ensure people got the support they needed, for example support to self-isolate, help hubs were set up offering advice and befriending schemes.

Local people set up a support group to ensure access to food, with every nationality using the “fridge” on a daily basis.

Other steps taken included helping prevent COVID getting into care homes, including helping organise a vaccination programme, and support for taxi drivers who were struggling with the collapse of their industry.

BAME communities were made aware of the risks posed by COVID and how best to protect themselves and their loved ones, and faith leaders were prominent in promoting messages, which were also put out through local media including videos.

Programmes were delivered to address underlying health conditions such as diabetes, including on self-managing these.

Support was also given to communities about living with COVID, for example support and advice around funerals.

Recovery from COVID in Calderdale should be racially inclusive both socially and economically, said Ms Bhupal.

Partners and communities both now also understood the scale of inequalities and were taking action to address them, she said.

Chairman of Calderdale Council of Mosques, Nadeem Mir, said a lot of schemes revolved around partnership work and really effective engagement with grass roots organisations spoke about some of the measures taken, including weekly meetings in places of worship with the council’s Director of Public Health, Deborah Harkins.

“It allowed us to share information in real time to try and understand the extent of issues,” he said.

Issues were addressed early and misinformation spread by social media and other platforms countered, said Mr Mir. Training was really key.

Sensitive issues included people trying to attend funerals at the times when allowed numbers were very limited and the Council of Mosques was able to gain people’s trust, he said.

Mr Mir said the people taking out the messages had to be credible and built up between communities and partners – much had been done, but in his view there was still a lot of work to do.

Coun Ashley Evans (Lib Dem, Warley) referred to the need for ongoing work in relation to the objectives and he hoped these would be extended to other wards.

“There is very good work being done and clearly the need to carry on,” he said.

Coun Stephen Baines (Con, Northowram and Shelf) asked how successful getting communities vaccinated had been.

Mr Mir said vaccination was massive issue certainly within the Muslim community because of initial messaging saying the vaccine was not halal.

“We very quickly jumped on that by getting trusted doctors and medical professionals saying it was permitted and there was no barrier religion-wise.

“The information was then quickly taken down and a counter-narrative put in place.

“But like in any community there is a small cohort who have made their mind up they are not going to take the vaccine, so a second approach was to educate young people to put indirect pressure on their parents,” he said.

Vaccination sessions had been held in schools and mosques and although there were still a number of people not vaccinated, the team were continuing to try and take the message out to them, said Mr Mir.

Coun Josh Fenton-Glynn (Lab, Calder) said he understood what was being said about some people who would just not the vaccination, there were some in Hebden Bridge.

There was also a need to encourage people to get their third dose of the vaccine, he said, and support should be given to people including over self-isolation and for those who are self-employed.

“What are we doing to make it as easy as possible to do things?” said Coun Fenton-Glynn.

Ms Bhupal said teams were continuing to hold vaccination pop-up sessions at sites such as mosques and industrial premises across Calderdale.

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