When support is a foreign concept

The pandemic has offered DMNW the chance to take a unique view of how parts of society works for the minority of people who don’t speak English.

We had never wished to be in a situation where we would feel the need to be digging deep into the inner workings of access to support services by the BAMER community. But 2020 shined a bright shining light on some of the failings of the systems in place, and we took on a project to thoroughly understand the issues at hand, and to feed information into modifications to systems, that would give the BAMER communities equal or better access than during the lockdown in the spring and summer of 2020.

Funded by Comic Reliefs’ COVID 19 funding, the BAMER Link project that ran from July 2020 until the end of December 2020, looked in greater detail at the humanitarian provisions on offer, such as access to doctors, mental health support, benefits and food banks.

The findings were worrying. With a four times higher likelihood of dying from COVID-19 once contracted, BAMER communities clearly had a need to be able to access support. And our report showed that this was a real issue for them. As an example, many who did not speak English fell at the first hurdle of simply trying to make an appointment with their GP. When their go-to translator, perhaps a neighbour or younger family member, was not able to come to their aid to make the call due to isolation, they would not be able to make the call themselves as the receptionist only spoke English.

The silver lining

We always try to strike a balance of looking into issues and being open and honest about them, whilst taking the pragmatic approach and leading by example to create real change. And this project was the same. We have already taken notice of these issues and looked within – and as you read this, we are taking steps to translate our own website into the dominant languages of the communities we work with and in.

Not only that, we are looking at other ways to support the BAMER communities by working with partners. First of all, we are liaising with local GPs to explore the issues of GP access when you don’t speak English. And we are exploring new initiatives related to IT access too.

We are hopeful that some good will come out of the pandemic and do everything we can, to make sure we push for the changes that will help those, who have less of a voice than their white British counterparts, due to lack of English, IT illiteracy or lack of access to the internet.