Maggie Brünjes: An unfair pandemic
Maggie Brünjes, Homeless Network Scotland’s chief executive, looks at an unfair pandemic and the reasons why they are today publishing a new framework* to help redress this across homelessness policy and services.
Already we know that the risk and impact of COVID-19 is not distributed equally. That it is having a disproportionate impact on people at the sharp end of social, income and health inequalities. And that this has a geographical pattern, which means some communities will be more affected.
An interesting article last week from the Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence discussed that those most damaged by austerity will also be most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic – including young people, frontline workers and women. The Improvement Service also published an important summary of issues and potential impact of COVID-19 on those living in socio-economic disadvantage.
An official inquiry has been launched by Public Health England to investigate why people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are disproportionately affected by the virus. While this week, the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities & Human Rights Committee launched an inquiry on the impact of the pandemic on equalities and human rights.
The overarching priority for those preventing and responding to homelessness during COVID-19 is to enable everyone to be in a safe place where social distancing, self-isolation and shielding is possible. With so many remarkable response plans now in motion right across Scotland, this might be the right time to fine tune those responses – and the ones still to come – to be as sensitive to inequality as they can be.
With this knowledge, we have taken some time to consider the additional impacts of COVID-19 on homelessness in Scotland, through the lens of ‘protected’ groups – those of us more likely to be more affected by already being at a disadvantage in other ways.
If at a broader societal level we are now being encouraged in Scotland to gear up to live alongside this virus in a ‘new normal’ over the coming months, then we hope this framework can assist and signpost local authority, housing, health and third sector partners. And act as a useful guide to help direct local policy, activity and resource during the pandemic and in its aftermath.
Special thanks to a high-calibre panel of ‘expert reviewers’ who considered this framework from every angle and provided feedback to help us get it into a shape ready to share. It remains a live document, so if you spot any gaps or improvements – please do let us know.
* View the framework here: ‘Homelessness & Covid-19: An overview of equality considerations arising from coronavirus (COVID-19) and its impact on homelessness in Scotland’.
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- Read all of our articles relating to COVID-19 here.