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Covid-19: providing a compassionate response that meets the needs and rights of us all

A practical guide for funders

Why this guide

How funds are distributed and who benefits will be vital for ensuring that funders and the charity sector can play their part in making sure the national response to Covid-19 is compassionate and meets the needs and rights of us all.

Voluntary sector infrastructure bodies put forward to government principles for the distribution of funds, including equality and human rights.

Equality and human rights principles are tools that funders and the charity sector can use to make sure funding is appropriately targeted and that groups and issues are not overlooked.

This guide shows ways that funders can put the principles into action. It also supports funders to comply in spirit and in law with the Equality Act 2010 and the UK’s national and international human rights obligations.

Equality and human rights principles

Funding needs to be used to meet everyone’s needs and rights. That means that within their area of operation funders/grantees need to:

  1. Identify and support the people and groups who are at risk of, or experiencing, inequality, discrimination, or abuse during the crisis.
  2. Identify and support the people and groups who are likely to be disproportionately impacted, or are traditionally under-funded, due to structural inequality. This includes women, BAME communities, disabled people, marginalised LGBT+ people, people locked in poverty.
  3. Recognise, value and support the expertise and experience of grassroots and user led organisations.
  4. Ensure the decision-making process is inclusive of people who can bring an equality and human rights lens, drawing on lived experience, professional expertise, and broader networks into marginalised communities. 

Principles into action

1. Who needs help: be clear who funding is for

Reassess who should be in your or your grantee’s target community. Whether funding is place or issue-based, consider who will your funding already reach? Who is it likely to miss out who should be included? ONS data and the information below can help you map the gaps. Use proxy data for groups not picked up by ONS. For example, about 5% of the population are LGBT people.

Recognise that pre-existing inequalities will be exacerbated in the pandemic. This means women, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities including Gypsy, Traveller and Roma (GRT) communities, marginalised faith communities, Deaf and disabled people (including people with mental health problems and long term heath conditions), marginalised LGBT+ people, people locked in poverty, and refugee and migrant communities.

Take account of the intersections and cumulative impacts of inequality.  For example BAME women in poverty or disabled women with caring responsibilities. Consider which groups are most likely to be marginalised and disadvantaged. This isn’t about setting up lots of separate funds for those people and issues. It’s about about making sure you bring those people and issues front of mind in planning, communications, and decision-making.

Consider who people will turn to for help. Which voluntary and community organisations do they trust? Fear of discrimination or distrust of ‘the system’ mean that often the most marginalised people who are in most need will not seek help from mainstream organisations, or will only access mainstream services with support from a trusted source.

Support the groups and specialist services people turn to first or for specific types of help: grassroots and less formalised community groups, specialist women’s organisation providing services on violence against women and girls, organisations run by and for BAME, faith or migrant communities, Deaf and disabled people, and LGBT people. These groups are often best placed because they have built up trust and relationships over time.

Support mainstream charities to deliver public benefit to all the public Charities don’t exist to serve only white or nondisabled people, so all charities should at least be able to show how their work benefits BAME and disabled people who live in their area of operation or are affected by the issues they work on. They should also understand what types of support are more appropriately provided by specialists and show they work with specialist organisations.

Target specific funding for race equality and race equality organisations. Or ring-fence funding, proportionate to your area of operation. Pre-existing and cumulative inequalities mean BAME people are particularly disproportionately impacted by Covid-19. Race equality organisations have historically been underfunded and Covid-19 creates additional challenges in that context.

2. What do people need help with: make clear what issues you’ll fund

In the table below are the types of equality and human rights problems that people will need help with now and through the recovery phase, and that charities and community groups will need funding for.

Spelling out in your funding priorities and criteria that you recognise these types of problems (or those that are relevant to your area) sends a clear message that you understand the needs in terms of inequality, discrimination and human rights.

We’ve particularly included problems and groups that are likely to be overlooked or under-served during the crisis. No funder can cover everything, but you can make make sure significant issues – either in terms of the number of people affected or the seriousness of the problems – are addressed within your area of benefit.

ProblemWhose needs and rights are at risk during Covid-19  
Disproportionate risks to right to life and disproportionately high mortality rates  BAME people, including frontline workers. Older and disabled people (including people with learning disabilities, and autistic people) due to wrongful use of Do Not Resuscitate notices, discriminatory judgements on the value of people’s lives and quality of life. Men.
Health inequalities:   Access to healthcare and treatment for Covid19   Access to accurate, accessible information about Covid19 and what to do about other critical illnesses, where to get helpMarginalised BAME and faith communities. Migrant and refugee communities. People with No Recourse to Public Funds. Disabled people. Deaf people – including need for information in British Sign Language.
Health inequalities:   Exposure to infection risk and lack of access to PPE  People in health and care and other frontline jobs – disproportionately likely to be women and BAME people. Disabled people employing personal assistants as part of direct payments. Disabled and older receiving personal care.
Access to food and essentials  People who cannot get to shops who are not covered by supermarkets’ current delivery priorities: disabled people, people with long term health conditions, people with learning disabilities, families of disabled children. Marginalised BAME communities, including access to fresh water and sanitation for GRT communities. Migrant and refugee communities, including people with No Recourse to Public Funds. Single parents (90% are women).
Risk of increased poverty or destitutionAdults and children from marginalised BME and faith communities. Disabled people and children. Women including pregnant women, women on maternity leave, single mothers. Migrant and refugee communities, including people with No Recourse to Public Funds.
Access to safe housingWomen and children escaping domestic violence and abuse. Care leavers. People in temporary accommodation. Migrant and refugee communities, including people with No Recourse to Public Funds. LGBT young people experiencing abuse at home. GRT communities facing evictions.
Loss of rights to care and adult social care, reduced safeguarding protections, reduced social care provision.Children in care, due to ‘easements’ in local authority duties under the Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020. Disabled children and adults including people with mental health problems, due to ‘easements’ in the Care Act. Older people.
Support for providing unpaid careWomen. Single parents (90% are women). Parents of disabled children.
Violence and abuseChild abuse – within the home, or online grooming and abuse. Domestic abuse and other types of violence against women (including BAME and older women, and women with no recourse to public funds) and girls. Abuse within LGBT relationships. Elder abuse.
Hate and online hate  Now: communities scapegoated for Covid-19. Recovery: communities scapegoated for Covid-19 plus the groups who are usually the targets of hate crime (disabled, BAME and LGBT people, faith communities) as people vent.
Discrimination or unlawful use of virus-related legislation and guidance      Access to treatment Unlawful use of Coronavirus ‘easements’ for children in care or adults receiving social care. Unlawful use of Coronavirus ‘easements’ for children with Special Educational Needs. Employment discrimination – who is sacked or furloughed. Lack of reasonable adjustments for disabled people in the provision of virus-related services. Social security and welfare benefits. Discriminatory blanket policies. Disproportionate use of stop and search and police powers on BAME people.
Digital exclusion (access to IT equipment, internet, digital by default services, phone credit)Marginalised BAME and faith communities. Migrant and refugee communities, including people with No Recourse to Public Funds. Disabled people. Deaf people – need for information in British Sign Language. Older people. Children in poverty, including BAME children, not able to access online education.
Planning for recoveryEnsuring that women and people who experience inequality, disadvantage and discrimination are engaged in planning and decision-making.
Support for advocacy and policy work  Organisations led by Deaf and disabled people, women, BAME and LGBT people and other marginalised groups who speak up for their communities on the above issues.

3. Help organisations apply

Spell it out. Reach out. Repeat. Marginalised communities’ experience is that too often funders say they are for everyone but in practice mean everyone but them.

Support people to navigate the process. Many grassroot organisations who are best placed to do this work will not have had funding before. Have a phone conversation, talk them through it, and if needed get the relevant information and help them complete the application.

Work with equality infrastructure organisations, so they can help get the word out and support smaller groups to apply. Value the knowledge and access to diverse communities that they provide.

4. Decision-making

Balance due diligence processes with the need to ensure support quickly reaches those who need it.

Involve specialist organisations in designing funding programmes and decision-making. This means organisations who are of and for affected communities, those who bring lived experience, and who understand people’s rights in law and practice.

Capture enough data to support and improve decision-making. Knowing whether funding reaches all those who need it is a matter of good governance, transparency and accountability for funders and grantees. Share data with other funders to help identify overlooked areas and avoid duplication. An audit tool produced by the Race Equality Funders Alliance is available, and can be used for all groups.

5. Working definition of organisations of, or that are led by, women, BAME, disabled, and LGBT people or other equality groups.

The organisation’s mission and purpose is to benefit women or the specific community. This may be set out in the organisation’s governing document, if the intention of its founders was to address the needs of women or the specific communities, or may be apparent from its website or track record if the mission is described more broadly.

The majority of the leadership (i.e. at least half of the senior team and the Trustee board) are women or from the communities the organisation serves.


About this guidance

This guide was produced for the voluntary sector infrastructure organisations working together on Covid-19, by Equally Ours, with input from the Women’s Resource Centre, LGBT Consortium, Voice for Change England, Disability Rights UK, members of the Race Equality Funders Alliance, and voluntary sector infrastructure organisations.

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