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Covid-19: Risk and Outcome Disparities

Volume 682: debated on Wednesday 21 October 2020

What recent discussions she has had with (a) Cabinet colleagues and (b) stakeholders on tackling the disparities in the risk and outcomes of covid-19. (907855)

In June, the Prime Minister asked me to lead cross-Government work on this issue, with a particular focus on ethnicity. I will update the House on the findings of my work in full tomorrow. The work involved extensive engagement by the Race Disparity Unit and me, with colleagues and external stakeholders, including academics and experts from University College London, the London School of Economics, Oxford University, medical experts from the British Medical Association and many ministerial colleagues. We will continue to redouble our efforts, and it is crucial that we make evidence-based decisions on this important work.

One unfortunate impact of covid-19 has been the impact on attainment in our communities, particularly white working class communities where educational attainment gaps have struggled during this crisis. I represent Princes End, which has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the west midlands. Will my hon. Friend assure me that, as part of that work across government, she will look particularly at ensuring that opportunity gaps as a result of covid-19 are not widened?

My hon. Friend is right to raise the importance of children of all backgrounds being in school and their educational attainment and wellbeing more broadly. The Government have been clear that limiting attendance at schools should be a last resort. We are providing laptops for the most disadvantaged pupils and 4G routers for families who do not already have mobile or broadband, for example. More broadly, on disparities in attainment, the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities is looking at outcomes for the whole population. That means ethnic minorities and white British people as well. The commission will set out a new positive agenda for change and look at the issues that my hon. Friend has raised.