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Engender joins other orgnisations dismayed at exclusion of equality and rights in Scottish Government’s Covid-19 inquiry

We urgently ask the Scottish Government to set out how it will correct this omission and ensure that the inquiry adopts an intersectional gender, equalities and human rights lens in order to understand and prevent future impacts for groups whose rights are most undermined.Today, we joined with 26 organisations working for equality and human rights in Scotland to write to John Swinney expressing our “dismay” and “deep concerns” following the publication of the Scottish Government’s Terms of Reference for a public inquiry into the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland.

Despite clear evidence raised by equalities groups and by Government itself that that the pandemic has had a greater impact on certain groups of people, the Terms of Reference as published make no reference to equality or human rights impacts stemming from the pandemic. Throughout the document, there is no mention of women, Black and minority ethnic communities, disabled people, LGBT+ People, older people, young people persons subject to No Recourse to Public Funds, and other groups who experienced the brunt of the pandemic.

Eilidh Dickson Engender's Policy and Parliamentary Manager, said:

“Since March 2020 women have been experiencing poorer physical and mental health, increased levels of unpaid work, loss of paid work, greater reliance on state support, insecure housing, and increased levels of gender-based violence. Women who are further marginalised because they are part of other oppressed groups, such as women of colour, LB+ and trans women, single mothers, disabled women and primary and secondary carers, have been exposed to even more acute poverty, violence, and exclusion.

For the Scottish Government to have ignored all of this in their Terms of Reference for the Covid-19 inquiry is disappointing, and presents real concerns about the success of the inquiry if it is falling at this first hurdle”

The letter, whose signatories include human rights organisation Amnesty International, Amina the Muslim Women’s Resource Centre, anti-poverty and race equality charities, and groups working to end violence against women, says that they have engaged on multiple occasions with Mr Swinney and officials involved in the inquiry into the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic in Scotland. It goes on to say:

“We did so because of the untold impacts of Covid-19 for our members and communities, and the enormous potential of the inquiry to address both specific harms that have been done and the systemic blindness to equalities that persists across government.”

And urges Mr Swinney to take heed of the lived experience and expertise of those who faced the most disadvantage during the pandemic.

The letter claims that the Scottish Government have not sufficiently prioritised equality and human rights in measures to respond the pandemic and as a result marginalised groups have been isolated even further from social and economic life. The authors call on the Scottish Government to outline how it will address the omission of the equalities and human rights issues to ensure that the inquiry understands and makes recommendations to prevent future impacts for groups whose rights are most undermined.

Read the letter here

About the Covid-19 inquiry:

The Scottish Government has committed to establishing a public inquiry to examine the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland. The inquiry will follow terms of reference set by the Scottish Government.On the 14th December the Scottish Government announced that Lady Poole had agreed to take on the role of the Chair of the Inquiry.

Prior to the publication of the Terms of Reference, a call for views from individuals and the public on a Draft Aims and Principles Paper was published on 24th August to underpin stakeholder engagement on the content of the Terms of Reference. Read Engender's response here.

On 14th December 2021, the Terms of Reference were published, accompanied by a letter to Lady Poole and an Analysis of the public and stakeholders views on the approach to establishing the public inquiry. The analysis report confirms that respondents “commonly included suggestions for the Inquiry to examine if the decisions made during the pandemic adhered to or breached human rights, how the Scottish Government and other public sector bodies considered equality in their decision making, and the impact of policy decisions on different groups of the population.” The Terms of Reference are now subject to a period of reflection by the Chair, who may suggest adjustments.

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