Over the last few months it has become evident that people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Dr Roiyah Saltus, a Principal Research Fellow at the University of South Wales, has been part of a Welsh Government Sub Committee tasked with identifying the range of socioeconomic factors influencing adverse COVID-19 health and social care outcomes in BAME groups.
In May, a COVID-19 Risk Assessment Tool was published, and this was followed earlier this week with the launch of the first report from the Socioeconomic Committee. The report includes more than 30 immediate and medium-term recommendations covering housing, immigration, employment, and education. It also highlights that social and health inequality arising from structural disadvantage, rather than the pandemic, has placed disproportionate health and environmental risks to minority ethnic populations in Wales.
In joining the Sub Committee, Dr Saltus was part of a grouping representing BAME communities, equality and human rights organisations, trade unions, policy leads, other academics, and expert advisers from within Welsh Government, and from across Wales and the UK brought together to consider the evidence and draft the recommendations.
As a sociologist, Dr Saltus’ research and scholarly work incorporates critical race theory, feminism, community development theory, and critical perspectives in health, social policy and practice. Her abiding research interest is rooted in intersectionality, and the interplay and impact of, gender, age and social class as experienced by racialised, migrant and marginalised population groups.
She said: “A great strength of the review process was bringing together the expertise, knowledge and experience from so many perspectives and stakeholder groups. The evidence we used was drawn from published research, surveillance datasets and grey literature as one would expect.
“However, of equal importance was evidence and knowledge as well as professional practice drawn from policy colleagues, and those working in BAME voluntary sector and equalities agencies, together with the views of 400 people from BAME backgrounds that was fed into the review process. This was our evidence base from which the recommendations were drawn.”
Reflecting on the next steps, Dr Saltus indicated that she would be putting forward a number of recommendations. She said: “There is a gap in the report in terms of the risks and impact of COVID-19 on the lives of older people from BAME backgrounds. There is also a need to ensure any future work draws on the wider mainstreaming agenda that so often marks equality development in Wales and that also takes on an intersectional framing, bringing together the intersecting of factors such as gender, religious belief, disability and social class that shape people’s lives.
“The work to capture and evidence the lived experiences of young, working age and older people from BAME backgrounds remains vitally important to understand their views, lives and what they feel will sustain them in the face of a possible second wave. Lastly, the report mentions the value and role of the BAME voluntary sector in Wales. We need to understand and place a much higher value of their role as we ease out of the lockdown and the full impact of COVID-19 on the lives of BAME people in Wales becomes clearer.”
Alongside this, Dr Saltus is currently an Adviser on a project surveying the BAME voluntary sector in Wales to examine the impact of the pandemic on them. The Ubele Initiative was first rolled out in England earlier in the year and has been revised and launched in Wales. Dr Saltus is working with EYST, a national BAME voluntary organisation who is leading on this survey work as part of a three-year BAME engagement project, funded by Welsh Government. The survey is being supported by and disseminated via Race Alliance Wales, a coalition of individuals and organisations working towards Race Equality in Wales.
A new section has been added to the survey to enable people to share their experiences, examples and ideas about how they have sought to continue to provide services to those they serve and support. Dr Saltus, said: “In the present climate in particular, it is vitally important to capture stories of innovation and excellence, as well as stories that could provide insight into the struggles and challenges faced by community groups and organisation that are led, or work on behalf of BAME population groups. Our aim is for the stories to provide the basis of a powerful evidence base.”