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Covid-19 revealed inequalities in public service delivery, report says

Inequalities must be tackled by the Government following the pandemic, a Parliamentary Committee has warned.

The report by the Public Services Committee said public service provision during the pandemic for BAME, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people, homeless people, and people with complex needs was inadequate.

In the first comprehensive analysis of how public services responded to COVID-19, the committee recommends a number of principles to transform public service delivery.

While it concluded that many public service providers and councils developed “remarkable innovations” to meet the COVID-19 challenge, there were many weaknesses.

There was insufficient support for prevention and early intervention, it says.

Furthermore, there was over-centralised delivery of public services, poor communication from the centre, and a tendency for service providers to work in silos rather than integrate service provision.

It pointed to a lack of integration especially between services working with vulnerable children, and between health care and adult social care.

The Committee said the Government and public service providers should recognise the vital role of preventative services in reducing the deep and ongoing inequalities that have been exacerbated by COVID-19.

Commenting on the findings, BMA chair of council Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “People from poorer communities, disabled people, vulnerable children and those from BAME backgrounds have borne the brunt of the effects of the virus itself and the measures that have been required to suppress it – with people living in the poorest areas of the country twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than those in the richest areas.

“The evidence is clear, and there’s no excuse for further Government inaction. We need a renewed focus on preventative health, better provision of local services providing accessible health care and advice to all communities, and for a ‘Health in All Policies’ approach.”

Need radical change

The report says central government and national service providers must radically improve the way that they communicate and cooperate with local-level service providers if they are to deliver effective public services.

It also called for charities, community groups, volunteers and the private sector to be recognised as key public service providers, and given appropriate support to deliver services effectively

Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top, Chair, Public Services Committee, said: “There should be no return to the pre-COVID-19 status quo.

“The fight against health inequality should be a priority for the Government. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people suffered disproportionately due to health inequalities and unequal access to services. 

“The Government’s own pandemic planning identified that social care would need significant support during the outbreak of a disease like COVID-19, yet social care was the poor relation to the NHS when it came to funding during lockdown. Discharging people from hospital into care settings without testing and with inadequate PPE led to the tragic loss of thousands of older and disabled people.”

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