University of Leeds at the heart of £2.5m project researching effect of pandemic on ethnic minority communities

Academics are asking people from ethnic minority communities to share their experiences of the Covid pandemic for a vital research project being spearheaded in Leeds that could shape future policies.

Friday, 26th March 2021, 11:45 am

The project aims to investigate the impact of the pandemic on wellbeing and resilience across black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups and will make recommendations to the Government to ensure long-term support is provided to those who need it.

Professor Iyiola Solanke, is the principal investigator and a professor at the University of Leeds

She said recognising the specific impacts of Covid-19 on these communities is important to prevent further discrimination and inequality, and the information collected by the project could be used to help in future pandemics.

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Iyiola Solanke, Professor of EU Law and Social Justice at the University of Leeds. She is leading a team of academics who are asking people from ethnic minority communities to share their experiences of the Covid pandemic for a vital research project that could shape future policies. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

The Consortium on Practices for Wellbeing and Resilience in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Families and Communities (Co-POWeR) project will speak to people from a range of groups, including the police, local authorities, teachers, social workers and the medical community, to explore the impact of Covid in a number of areas, such as children, the elderly, physical activity and the application of emergency powers.

Prof Solanke, professor of EU law and social justice at the university of Leeds, explained: "It's really about trying to hear the voices of individuals and, by hearing their voices, allowing them to tell their own story so there's a sense of empowerment, it's not just people speaking about them but they are telling their stories in a way the Government can hear.

"We'll be talking to different communities, as well as individuals themselves, to try to get a 360-degree picture of what is going on, so not just from the recipients of care, but also those who are delivering the care, not just those who are perhaps being arrested and given fixed penalty notices, but also those who have the responsibility to give them."

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Iyiola Solanke, Professor of EU Law and Social Justice at the University of Leeds, during a photoshoot at Farnley Hall Park in Leeds. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

"The premise of the project is that, if you live in a BAME family or community, you're battling two viruses at the moment, not just Covid, but also discrimination," she said.

"It's a real cocktail of stresses that are affecting the lives of families in BAME communities and we want to make people in Government aware of that compound effect, and make the Government aware of how that does affect short-term and long-term resilience."

Prof Solanke said there has been little research into how people in BAME communities respond to pandemics and it is important that policy-makers do not overlook crucial problems by taking a "colour-blind approach".

She said: "You have to take discrimination and racism into account and, when you add that, then that might throw up many different issues. This project is really important, not just for BAME communities, but also for society as a whole because we don't want to find ourselves in a situation where we end up with a part of society, a racialised part of society, that is also somehow further stigmatised because the specific impacts of the Covid pandemic were not recognised and were not taken into account."

Iyiola Solanke, Professor of EU Law and Social Justice at the University of Leeds, is part of a £2.5m research project.

Prof Solanke said the findings of the 18-month project, which has been awarded £2.5m by UK Research and Innovation, would be important to policy-making in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, but could also be valuable in the future when responding to other pandemics or emergency situations."

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