Inequalities experienced by ethnic minority carers have been explored in a UWS-Oxfam Partnership research study.

The study, ‘Caring during crisis: the experiences of ethnic minority communities in Scotland during COVID-19’, was led by academics at University of the West of Scotland (UWS) and is believed to be the first to focus specifically on the experiences of ethnic minority carers in Scotland since 1996.

The study explores the lingering impacts of the pandemic and the impact of the cost-of-living crisis and how members of ethnic minority families have arranged their caring responsibilities; the different assets these carers have drawn from to cope with and manage the Covid-19 pandemic-related risks; and how unpaid care is experienced differently by ethnic minorities.

Emilia Pietka-Nykaza, Senior Lecturer in the School of Education and Social Sciences at UWS, led the study. She said: “Protecting ethnic minority unpaid carers from poverty and valuing their contribution to society is absolutely crucial and is at the heart of our recommendations following our research, which highlights the real struggle many ethnic minority carers are facing.”

Key findings from interviews conducted for the study include:

  • A reluctance amongst unpaid carers from ethnic minority communities to use the social security system and carer support services even when experiencing financial hardship.
  • Limited social connections: ethnic minority carers relied heavily on existing social connections – in particular, family members – for support in their caring roles.
  • Barriers to paid employment: due to the gender split of care work; language barriers; and restrictions around the right to work, the ethnic monitory carers interviewed reported that engaging with paid work was difficult or impossible.
  • The pandemic deepened existing inequalities in Scotland for ethnic minority carers, in relation to gender, ethnicity, and immigration status.

Emilia added: “Our research has found that, for example, due to the stigma associated with benefits and specific cultural expectations around self-sufficiency in ethnic minority families, these carers are often reticent to use the social security system and support services available to them. The carers interviewed from these communities also report having limited social connections, which, for some people, was due to geographical distance to their families – a problem which is particularly severe for the asylum-seeking and refugee communities.

“Interviewees spoke of experiences of poverty and poor physical and mental health, often compounded by limited access to social security and support services, limited access to paid work, and limited social connections. These problems have deepened because of the pandemic.

“Our study also involved asylum seekers and refugees and has generated valuable insights into the experiences of groups which are not often considered in literature on unpaid care”.

The report outlines “key learnings for future policy and practice” centred around better protecting and supporting ethnic minority unpaid carers, including:

  • Tackling poverty by improving access to social security entitlements, such as through the Scottish Government’s new Scottish Carer’s Assistance.
  • Improving mental health support for ethnic minority carers, including action to ensure this is culturally sensitive and increasing investment in carer organisations.
  • Nurturing existing social networks among ethnic minority carers and developing new social connections to prevent social isolation.

The UWS-Oxfam Partnership has previously explored the experiences of unpaid carers across Scotland during the pandemic, as well as those of young carers.

At the same time, Oxfam Scotland is calling for a dedicated new National Outcome to value and invest in care, and all those who provide it, in Scotland. The campaign, known as ‘A Scotland That Cares’, is backed by more than 50 organisations and comes as the Scottish Government prepares to review their existing National Outcomes for the first time in five years. Academics at UWS created a blueprint for a new National Outcome.

Jamie Livingstone, the Head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “It’s very clear that too many people who look after someone face deep personal and financial impacts themselves, including poverty, with surveys showing that these pressures have been intensified by the pandemic and now by the cost-of-living crisis,

“However, the specific experiences of unpaid carers from ethnic minority communities has been less well understood and, while small in scale, the insights from participants in this important research suggest the challenges they face are even more intense.

“As Scotland takes action to better value and invest in all forms of care, it cannot leave anyone behind, and these insights must now be used to shape policy and practice.”

You can read the full report here:

Headline Image Credit: Issued by UWS/Oxfam (Shutterstock)

By Ricky Kelly

Main writer for Renfrewshire News

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