African Women’s Group Scotland

Submission to Covid-19 Inquiry in Scotland

Covid Inquiry

Covid-19 Inquiry in Scotland

African women’s Group Scotland (AWGS) Submission. The AWGS is a charitable organisation based in Aberdeen North East of Scotland.

This is our submission of what to include in the inquiry based on our experience during the pandemic and the locked down. What our community experienced and their lived experiences. We support this inquiry and submit our desire to be included in this inquiry.

The Scope of the inquiry

The scope of the inquiry should be broad enough to capture the impact of the pandemic on the physical, emotional, financial, social and psychological on the different groups in the society but at the same time not too broad that the inquiry drags on forever. There are different voices and experiences, every voice and community ought to be heard thus making sure as many voices and experiences are heard and acknowledged. People in our community are made of those with citizenship and no citizenship, right to stay and no right to stay, those without visa and awaiting home office decisions, those entitled to health services and those not entitled to access health services. All these were impacted during the lock down.

Barely 3 months into the lockdown that many families in our community ran out of money because they have lost their jobs, food and are unable to pay bill or cloth their children. Many resulted in phoning in great distress for support and we as an organisation initially had nothing to offer these families. We have no office, worker or resources and yet we were the group people were seeking help.  The initial government support to charities were paying their office rents, staff wages and ICT equipment but they forgot about many charities especially in the minority communities do not have office or staff, all are run by volunteers. The impact of Covid-19 and the lock down was just too much to be left in the hands of community groups without support.

There was no preparation or clear directive for people in our community, there was no support to for community organisations to access for the people in their communities. We are left to pick up the pieces and tasks that was daunting. Many mothers and their children suffered from serious poverty. It should include these sub-headings.

Human Right- Many minority’s human rights were bridged as many people could not receive help because they are not entitled to this or that and these are families with children.

Information- Although there were daily briefing by the first minister, but the information was not addressing many issues at the community level. It was mostly one way communication. Information was given as if society was a mono cultural society; this opened doors for much false information which contributed to vaccine hesitancy in some communities. There was very little Scottish data for ethnic minority communities consequently information is often lifted from other parts of UK and extrapolated from their findings which is completely different from Scotland and thus causing anxiety and stress. Scotland must produce its own data.

 Migrant with no recourse to public funds – became stranded, with no job and unentitled to any help therefore resorted to begging and losing their self-worth and dignity.

International Students

This should be looked into because there was no clear information on what international students should do. Some were chased out by their landlords, forced to share one room putting themselves at risk, begging for food, universities pressurising them to pay fees and locking them out facilities and access to their supervisors. They could not travel and yet there was no support for them to sustain themselves or continue with their studies.

Education and school

Covid-19 disrupted the children’s learning as schools were shut down and parents were encouraged to help children at home. With migrant communities many parents had to go work, many are front line workers or essential workers consequently they were unable to give their needed support to their children. Some parents had to stop work to look after the children as they themselves lack the ability or confidence to help their children in a meaningful way. Some parents do not speak or write in English so could not help the children. Thus, some children from minority communities have a wider education gap. We don’t know what extra support the government will give to bridge this gap.

Immigration and Home office

Many migrants could not work because their immigration papers were with Home Office and yet there was no help given to them on how they can survive. Their voices and plights must be investigated and the risk they took to put food on the table. Why they are not entitled to help when their papers are with the home office?

Mental health of African Community

The Covid-19 and the lockdown had tremendous impact on everyone, but more on minority groups who were the front line workers (care workers, nurses, and doctors etc) who worried everyday of bringing the virus to their families. Many people had traumatic experiences, losing their jobs or having to work extra shifts in order to feed the children who are now at home eating more as they are not in school. The initial report indicated that minority groups especially black people had higher dead rate than the general population, this sent panic in their community. We did not know Scottish data on minority so people just took the English data and as the national data which created great anxiety. On top of that the George Floyd murder just brought out the fear, anger and impact of racism and discrimination on every Black person in Scotland. The murder affected the children who have never experience such cruelty and there are still children that have nightmares. Throughout that period there was no help to this community in terms of counselling or support to the community groups that have to face traumatised groups. Currently, there is no mental health or domestic violence support for this community.

Allocation of resources

The government spend a lot of money during the lock down and in the fight against the virus. The government supports charities and community groups. We are not sure that it was distributed fairly. We would want the tribunal to look into how much money came to the minority community groups during the pandemic in terms of services, staff wages and financial support to both registered and unregistered community support groups, within Ethnic Minority groups who got what and how much. This is vital as many communities were left with no support and resources.

We suggest that community groups that will participate to conduct or collect the information should have resources to do the work properly.

Presentation of the report

There should be an Interim report to assure the public that the inquiry is active and then final report. If there is long silence for months or years people may lose confidence in the report and there are things that need changing right way should be said rather than wait till the final report- this could take years. As many community groups should be involved in the process.

Ways to present the report

It is important that all voices be heard, all groups and community be represented; there should be no afterthought groups. We think the report should be presented in different format targeting different groups using appropriate medium that suits each group.

There should be a summarised form of the report that is short with the bullet points of the finding that people can see at a glance. This should include the findings, gaps, good practice, etc.