Occasionally, you’ll hear people say that during the Coronavirus crisis, “we’re all in this together” or that “we’re all the same boat”. There is, of course, an element of truth to this. We are all having to change how we live our lives and the vast majority of people have been following the same rules.
However, the reality is that lockdown is much harder for some than others. Some are lucky and can work from home on full pay, whilst others have lost their jobs or face an uncertain future. Some experience Coronavirus without any symptoms at all, whilst others sadly do not survive the virus. Some are locked down in loving families, whilst others are alone or in dangerous living arrangements. There are millions of different versions of lockdown and it would be wrong to suggest that we’re all sharing exactly the same experience.
There is now a wealth of evidence, for example, that shows that the richest and poorest in this country are experiencing the crisis very differently. Whilst at one end this is simple things like having access to private gardens or lots of room inside to give each other space, at the othe we have seen that people on lower incomes are – for a wide variety of different reasons – more likely to die from this disease. Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that this is the case right here in Tameside, where the most deprived areas are those with the highest mortality from COVID-19.
This is extremely worrying in itself, but this is also combined with evidence that shows that inequalities are being deepened by this crisis. One obvious example is to do with school closure. Whilst schools are shut, the attainment gap between richer and poorer students is growing. This unfortunately will create problems that last far beyond the end of the crisis.
With all this in mind, I think that it is absolutely essential that we start to think now – whilst the crisis is ongoing – about how we might tackle the inequalities that this crisis is causing and – importantly – will cause in the years to come. This is part of why it was so important to extend free school meals over this summer holiday.
Our community has pulled together so wonderfully to help each other through this crisis – I hope we can do the same once the crisis has passed so that we don’t leave anybody behind.