Five principles for organisations to ensure an inclusive response to coronavirus 

There are parts of our society more likely to be adversely affected by coronavirus. Last week, Charity So White published a paper on the inequitable impact of the outbreak on BAME communities. They make a compelling case for why its vital for organisations across civil society to put inclusion at the heart of their work.  

Understanding the inequitable impact 

Recentlyweve seen organisations across our sector address aspects of the coronavirus response that unfairly impact on marginalised groups and communities. Charity So White have highlighted that the police powers and education provisions in the Coronavirus Act 2020 will have a disproportionate negative impact on BAME communities. Disabled people are concerned about attempts to ration treatment and suspension of local authorities’ duties to provide care and support.  The LGBT Foundation has raised concerns about the impact of having to isolate within an LGBTphobic household. 

Several charities have highlighted the danger social distancing measures pose for those who experience domestic abuse, mental health problems, and homelessness. The outbreak could push many into poverty and place additional financial pressure on those already finding it hard to get by.  

For many organisations these issues will be the focus of campaigning or service delivery, but all organisations need to consider how these issues will impact on beneficiaries, staff and volunteers.  

Key principles for organisations

Our sector has a vital role to play in addressing these issues, but this needs to go beyond highlighting or meeting need. We need to disrupt the power imbalance that causes them. Charity So White have developed five guiding principles to help organisations do this:

1. Now is the time to address racial inequalities in our sector

Some say in a time of crisis, we need to choose between responding to covid-19 and tackling injustice or ensuring inclusion. But this is a false binary. At times like this inclusion is the key to an effective response.

2. Acknowledge the power you hold, don’t distance yourselves from it

It’s hard in the current crisis to recognise the power we have in ourselves, in our organisations and our sector. But it’s important we use the power we do have to tackle inequality, as well as make room for emerging groups and organisations.

3. Actively value lived experience and centre ‘at risk’ communities

We know that some people and communities are more likely to be adversely affected by coronavirus, and by responses to it. It’s vital these people are a part of decisions that impact on their lives and communities, and that their direct experience of injustice is valued.

4. It’s time to trust the BAME voluntary sector

Most existing BAME-led organisations are small charities with strong direct ties to their communities. Many are struggling financially, having been underfunded for the past ten years. We need to ensure any available funding is accessible for these organisations.

5. Recognise and support BAME staff and volunteers

BAME employees tend to be more junior, in low paid sectors, or on temporary contracts. Charity So White are concerned that BAME staff will be more likely to face job insecurity or losses. It’s also vital to ensure BAME staff and volunteers working to combat covid-19 aren’t overlooked.

While these principles have been developed to address racial inequality, we think they could be adapted to address other forms of inequality. For example, we know organisations that are ‘of’ the communities they serve, such as user-led organisations, face similar challenges to BAME-led organisations

NCVO’s response

NCVO’s journey to become an inclusive organisation continues during the coronavirus outbreak. Our EDI working group and NCVO’s leadership are determined to ensure inclusion remains an organisational and sector-wide priority. A key priority for us is ensuring that changes to the way we work are inclusive and fair.

We’ll continue to highlight the challenges faced by organisations that are led by the people and communities they serve. . We’ll be engaging with others in the sector to think about what’s needed to make funding accessible for these types of organisations.

Covid-19 has laid bare the inequalities in our society, which are often mirrored in the voluntary sector. In the face of the extreme challenges we’re experiencing as a sector, it’s also a unique opportunity to disrupt power structures and re-establish the sector on more inclusive and equitable foundations. The Charity So White principles can help us, whatever our size and place in the sector, to think through how we do so.

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Rebecca Young Rebecca Young is a senior policy officer at NCVO, working primarily on public services and volunteering policy. Before joining NCVO, Rebecca led on mental health, housing and disability policy at the National Union of Students.

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