Healthwatch Reading speaks out on inequalities

Reading people and organisations have been supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
Photo of woman with walking stick

As the Black Lives Matter movement grows in the UK, Healthwatch Reading is restating its commitment to tackling health inequalities experienced by people in our diverse community.

Mandeep Kaur Bains, chief executive of Healthwatch Reading, said: “The peaceful sit-down protests held over recent weekends in Forbury Gardens, show great support in our town for the Black Lives Matter movement. As a front-line organisation working with and on behalf of local people, Healthwatch Reading will continue to put into practice the values of equality, diversity and inclusion in all our work.”

Health inequalities come in many forms – such as finding it difficult to access the care you need, being at a greater risk of dying from certain diseases or discriminatory attitudes from staff in the way you are treated. Your ethnicity, age, disability and other characteristics can make it more likely you will experience health inequalities.

We have taken a number of actions to put into practice our values (see box, below).

Putting our values into actions:

  • On 7 April 2020 we advised local people how they could find information about Covid-19 in non-English languages or formats such as BSL or Easy Read
  • On 15 April we highlighted specific guidance on going out during lockdown for people with learning disabilities or autism
  • On 24 April, we wrote to Reading’s lead councillors for health and adult social care about our concerns that elderly care home residents didn’t have a voice in the pandemic and could be at risk of poor quality of care in some cases
  • On 7 May we publicised the disproportionate impact that the coronavirus pandemic could have on Reading’s black and minority ethnic (BAME) population
  • On 7 May we launched a Covid-19 experience survey which asks respondents to share details of their age, ethnicity and other characteristics to check if these influence good or negative experiences
  • On 18 May we submitted a question to Reading Borough Council to find out what steps the council would take to protect BAME people over Covid-19, and received this answer
  • On June 2 we highlighted worrying findings about the impact of Covid-19 on people with learning disabilities.

Further back, we have run projects, such as ‘Log on to Health’ last year, to teach BAME women how to sign up and use GP online services and our ‘Seldom Heard’ series in 2018 to hear from refugees, other BAME people, and people with learning disabilities.

We also ran ‘Conversations about Care’ visits to all older people’s care homes to hear their stories and have held focus groups with Reading’s Nepalese and Polish communities, to come up with recommendations for change for our local health and care services.

Our organisation also runs Reading Voice, which provides statutory advocacy to people who need extra help to have their say and champion their rights.  This includes people ‘sectioned’ on mental health wards.

Healthwatch England, the national umbrella body for all local Healthwatch, has also spoken out. Its national director, Imelda Redmond, said: “We stand in solidarity with people from the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities we serve. Recent events must make us all stop, question ourselves and ask what we can all do better.”

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