BLOG SERIES: Perspectives on the pandemic
More than a year on from the launch of the National Emergencies Trust’s Coronavirus Appeal on 18 March 2020, we have asked our incredible funding partners – and some of their incredible grant-making partners – to share their unique perspectives on the pandemic.
Great Manchester BAME Network
by Atiha Chaudry, Chair
What difference has the pandemic made to the communities you serve?
The GM BAME Network supports a wide range of diverse communities across the ten localities of Greater Manchester. All of our localities have significant populations and some like Manchester are approaching over 45% ethnic diversity. We are one of the most diverse outside of London. Like the rest of the country we were hard hit by the pandemic and it had a huge impact on our communities in terms of health, mortality, mental health, education, jobs, income levels, poverty and generally the social and economic impact has been felt across all our communities but more so by some ethnic communities.
Our local statistics show that Pakistani, African, Caribbean, and Bangladeshi communities were disproportionality impacted. These are the largest ethnic communities across GM that are served by our organisation. Inequalities are now more visible and more widened, poverty levels have increased particularly for children in these communities and we are seeing a higher level of mental health impacts.
What impact did you see on your services as a result?
We saw a significant increase in our services and particularly in the first six months of the pandemic. This was both at the local level where communities needed more support, help and advice but also at the system and national level where we needed to represent our communities and voice their needs. Our work was stretched to working 7 days a week due to the number of national level Zoom meetings and webinars taking place throughout the week.
As a network we used to meet as a Leaders group around six times a year. During this period we have been meeting twice a month and delivered more networking sessions particularly on information about COVID-19 and how to stay safe and also about funding, resources and sustainability. We have held many ‘Meet the Funder’ events to provide support as well as connect funders to our community. Our engagement at a local level increased significantly as we stepped up to support efforts across the sub region and ensure that our communities were connected to local support and information.
How has funding from the Coronavirus Appeal, via Comic Relief’s Global Majority Fund, made a difference?
The funding made a huge difference to our communities as it responded to their essential needs. It enabled us to help communities with some basic emergency support that was critical for communities impacted by the pandemic through loss of jobs, loss of income, isolation and loneliness, educational deprivation due to lack of digital access and resources, mental health needs, and most of all food and general poverty. Communities that would normally be able to access community support through groups and centres found that everything was closed and it took some time for community groups to switch their services to telephone and online support. Of course much of our sector is under-resourced and found it difficult to reorganise itself as infrastructure support targeted for diverse communities is limited. Our sector is well supported through volunteering and, like the rest of the community, we saw huge levels of mutual and citizen support.
The funding enabled us to award 163 grants with a total value of £307,309.49 distributed to grassroots community groups. Examples of projects funded include culturally appropriate food support, tackling digital exclusion through tech loan schemes, art wellbeing sessions, assisting groups who were unable to fundraise to survive.
What challenges and/or opportunities do you foresee ahead?
We are already seeing many challenges and expect many more over the next few years when the real impacts of COVID-19 are seen and understood. We know that inequalities, which were already deep in our communities are now exaggerated due to the disproportionate impact. At GM level an Inequalities Commission was set up and has produced a report highlighting deep inequalities. This report also makes a number of recommendations including those on issues of race inequalities and recognition of structural discrimination.
As a consequence of the number of applications we saw for food aid we have set up an ethnic food project to support communities (funded through the GM Mayor as a pilot and we are hopeful that this will receive further funding as the demand has increased). We expect that many people from ethnic communities will be further impacted through loss of income and jobs as they are concentrated in the lower paid jobs, are more on the front line of health and care, transport and retail – and these are sectors where there has been higher impacts of the pandemic.
Some of the opportunities ahead of us are that we do now have funders engaging more to ensure that our needs are better met through their programmes and funding is more accessible. We have the development of the Baobab Foundation which may be the first national level organisation with the sole purpose of supporting our communities.
We will also see a lot of losses in our sector as many of our organisations and groups will find it hard to sustain themselves and funding will be more competitive with an increased demand.
The National Emergencies Trust partnered with Comic Relief in July 2020 to launch the Global Majority Fund. Find out more here.