University of Strathclyde: Marginalised communities “not aware of right to health” during pandemic

People in marginalised communities, including homeless people, refugees and those with mental health problems, were unaware of their right to the highest attainable standard of health during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to research involving the University of Strathclyde.

The study of experiences of the pandemic found that lockdown measures significantly impacted people’s sense of control and impeded their ability to access support and services.

Concerns were also raised around the removal of face-to-face provision, particularly for people with poor mental health, while digital exclusion was also a key feature of loneliness and isolation.
The report makes 13 recommendations, including:

marginalised communities should be proactively consulted to inform the design and development of services
services must tackle digital exclusion by ensuring individuals have access to data, technology and are able to develop skills to use digital services effectively
training resources should be developed to support a human rights-based approach to developing and delivering services
ensuring that all service users are supported in understanding their rights, entitlements and responsibilities when accessing services.
The study also involved a range of health and third sector organisations, including Public Health Scotland, Homeless Network Scotland, the Mental Health Foundation and Voluntary Health Scotland.

Neil Quinn, Co-Director of Strathclyde’s Centre for Health Policy, was academic lead on the project. He said: “The research highlights how Covid has affected the population disproportionately and how communities on the margins have experienced particular disadvantage during the pandemic.”

Derek Holliday, peer researcher at Homeless Network Scotland, said: “We have the right to be treated as individuals and not as a cohort. We should strive to promote individualism free from discrimination and stigma irrespective of culture, sexual orientation, social status or disability.”

The report identified six key issues experienced by different marginalised groups: human rights and health; impact on mental health and wellbeing; impact of the pandemic on sense of purpose and control; access to statutory public services; access to community, social support and social networks, and digital access.

Many respondents to the study highlighted the negative impact the loss of their daily routine and structure had on their motivation and general mental wellbeing. The study also identified a need to consider people who find it difficult to access digital platforms and to ensure that all forms of digital exclusion are addressed.

One participant in the study said: “It wasn’t a nice feeling after, basically, working hard all my life, to be in a situation of poverty where somebody up there decides and all of a sudden you have got to scramble hard to actually be able to put things on your table, so you can eat.”

Another said: “Some of it’s been bordering on catastrophic for some people that I know. And I’ve learnt that some people I thought were doing OK were actually teetering quite close to the edge and it’s been just sort of the final straw that’s tipped them over. And they [are] desperately shouting help, I need somebody. And there just isn’t the services there for them anymore.”

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