LABOUR leader Keir Starmer has said that the Covid-19 pandemic had a disproportionate impact on black, Asian and minority ethnic communities as it has picked away at inequalities which were already there.
He opined that the coming economic challenge will be ‘profound’, and warned of unemployment on a scale that has not ‘seen for many years’.
He was speaking at a virtual roundtable on Thursday (9), with BAME-led businesses to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on SMEs, led by Baroness Doreen Lawrence. The event was the latest in a series of consultation sessions for Labour’s review into the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on BAME communities.
“For many businesses, the coronavirus crisis has been a day-to-day, week-to-week struggle. This is a pandemic the likes of which we have never seen,” Starmer said.
“We did a recent survey which showed that 48 per cent of BAME-led businesses weren’t even applying for government schemes because they didn’t think they would qualify,” said Tom Adeyoola, tech entrepreneur and co-founder of Extend Ventures.
“We need to improve diversity data in business. The community urges the major banks, British Business Bank and government to improve their diversity data monitoring and reporting. You can’t impact what you don’t measure.”
According to Dee Gibson, owner of Velvet Orange Interior Design, everything fell off the cliff with the lockdown.
“We need to consider businesses more individually and look at how we can phase people back in. It seems like suddenly the plug’s being pulled, but the problem hasn’t gone away,” she said.
Minal Patel, founder of Marketing by Minal, said that smaller businesses are struggling to apply for loans in Hayes & Harlington as it involves ‘lots of paper work’.
“Without help for these business owners at the grassroots, I think a lot of businesses that are led by people of colour are going to miss out,” she pointed out.
“We have made the decision not to open our physical clinic until September because we feel it’s not safe enough. We’re in a community where there is a high number of Bangladeshi people, and we already know that Bangladeshi people are at 50 per cent higher risk,” said Shermeena Rabbi, founder of Unlocking Language.
“Half of my workforce are also BAME, so I am looking for more guidance on how to protect my workforce.”
The meeting heard concerns about BAME-led businesses being less likely to have received government support during the pandemic. An analysis of loans delivered via the government’s ‘Future Fund’ support scheme for start-ups has found that 43 per cent have an all-white senior management team, whilst less than five per cent are all-BAME.
Marsha de Cordova MP, shadow women and equalities secretary, Anneliese Dodds MP, shadow chancellor and Chi Onwurah, shadow minister for digital, science & tech and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for BAME business owners also attended.