METRO has submitted a report to the Women and Equalities Committee's inquiry into the different and disproportionate impact that the coronavirus - and measures to tackle it - is having on people with protected characteristics under the Equality Act.
Since the lockdown in the UK, from 18th March METRO successfully moved the majority of our over 60 services to remote online models; for example, we now offer online counselling and have moved our HIV peer support and LGBTQ+ youth groups to virtual platforms. We also started a number of new phone-based services, such as a targeted sexual health advice line for young people, and a welfare rights’ advice and support service for disabled people. We have continued to offer our online services in HIV prevention, advice, education and support as well as in sexual health testing and results management.
However, despite the many people whom we continue to serve and support, there are a significant number of our service users who have lost support, or experience an inadequate level of support as a result of the cessation of in-person, face-to-face work. These include:
- families affected by HIV
- 50 or more people who were attending METRO’s long-running mental health drop-in
- people with disabilities and people living with HIV who rely on face-to-face support to apply for benefits claims and who are now experiencing anxiety and distress over delays and difficulties with this process
- many service users throughout the charity who are suffering financial hardship as a result of delayed benefits, suspensions to appeals about pre-existing claims, and loss of income due to low, unstable, or no employment.
As well as providing evidence of the impact of the pandemic and the Government's response so far to the pandemic, the report also makes some recommendations to the committee for how this impact might be mitigated.
Photo by Oliver Cole