Civil society groups call for action to urgently address inequalities exacerbated by COVID-19 and to prevent austerity from becoming part of NI’s pandemic recovery.
The Equality Coalition, an alliance of more than 100 NGOs and trade unions, has issued an official statement urging decision makers to address inequality as part of the pandemic recovery following the deaths of 2,981 people from Covid-19 in NI.
Covid-19 has disproportionately affected section 75 groups such as older people; persons with disabilities and those who are clinically vulnerable; women; black and minority ethnic people; and those with dependents.
Previously, in April 2020, the Equality Coalition members highlighted serious concerns about the impact Covid-19 would have on the groups protected by equality law (including the nine equality categories covered by Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998), and the potential for the pandemic to exacerbate already unacceptable levels of economic inequality in our society. We called for commitments from public authorities that Section 75 obligations in policy development would be discharged to avoid increasing inequality.
Over 12 months later, some of the Coalition’s specific concerns about the policy response to Covid-19 may have changed, but members remain resolute that long term recovery must not be achieved through austerity measures that increase inequality.
Key recommendations for NI Executive Departments and wider public authorities
- Collectively call for a ‘New Deal’ for public spending in Northern Ireland within a framework of equality and human rights, which allows public services to be rebuilt and reformed and which addresses our sustained levels of poverty and deprivation.
- Provide simplified, easily accessible, and adequate financial supports for those required to self-isolate due to testing positive for Covid-19 or being a close contact.
- Ensure that the vaccinations programme is accessible to all within society and is effective by undertaking equality monitoring of those accessing Covid-19 vaccines.
- Carefully consider the human rights implications of the development of a vaccination passport (in paper or digital form), including providing clear evidence to demonstrate that any such passport or identification is necessary and proportionate in compliance with human rights law.
- Should the Covid regulations tighten in the future, express provision should be made to accommodate the right to protest.
- Urgently implement service provision for reproductive health care for people living in NI, who otherwise are forced to travel to obtain medical care.
- Commit to continuing existing welfare mitigation and extending further measures.
- Develop a dedicated and fully costed Childcare Strategy.
- Further develop and adopt the strategies committed to within ‘New Decade, New Approach’ aimed at reducing inequality, tackling disadvantage and driving economic growth on the basis of objective need.
Please direct media enquiries to Robyn Scott, Communications & Equality Coalition Coordinator on email@example.com or 075 1994 1203.