A recent All Party Parliamentary Report shows Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) businesses have been disproportionately hit by Covid-19.
BAME communities are at greater risk of dying if they contract the virus – but face greater exposure because of the businesses they tend to run.
And nearly two-thirds said they had been unable to access government funding, according to research commissioned by a cross-party group of MPs.
Diana Chrouch, special advisor to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for BAME business owners, said: “The impact to the economy would be astronomical if a significant number of BAME-run businesses had to close. It could easily lead to a loss of billions of pounds.”
There are reported to be 250,000 firms led by ethnic minority entrepreneurs, contributing around £25 billion a year to the economy.
Many provided frontline services during lockdown, including takeaways and wider general support in their communities.
Yet the report found many felt overlooked and unable to access state-backed loans and grants in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
Chrouch, who is also the chair of national BAME policy for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: “Many industries have been affected by coronavirus, but this report shows it has been particularly hard on ethnic minority businesses as a whole.
“It would greatly benefit the UK economy if such enterprises were given the resources and support needed to survive the pandemic and scale up.”
UK Curry Connect (UKCC), an organisation set up to raise awareness of skills shortages in the Asian catering industry, collated information from members as part of a national public consultation.
Moslek Uddin, CEO of UKCC and active APPG member, said: “Our industry has faced many challenges and this pandemic could be the nail in the coffin.”
UKCC gives the industry a voice and lobbies support from the government. It also helps develop skills, networks and young talent in the sector. It also assists with migration issues.
Moslek, who also heads Chutneys takeaway, added: “Lives and livelihoods are at risk and we want our voices to be heard. We need greater representation in government.”
The consultation, which took place shortly after Black Lives Matter demonstrations begun in the UK, revealed long-standing structural inequalities – heightened by the pandemic.
Entrepreneurs from ethnic minorities are less likely to have access to bank financing, venture capital or Angel Investment.
A history of mistrust and a lack of support was also reported from some BAME-led enterprises.
Chrouch said: “Some people said they were wary of asking for help because of perceived discrimination and legacy of a ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy.”
The policy, which was part of a strategy to reduce illegal immigrants, was blamed for the Windrush scandal – where many were forcibly deported, detained and denied legal rights.
Practical issues prevented other BAME business owners from claiming government support, such as language and IT barriers.
Some cash-strapped owners have resorted to dipping into savings and taking out payday loans.
There are calls to make funding more accessible and provide tailored business support for BAME business owners.
People of BAME heritage are up to twice as likely to die of COVID or suffer serious health complications.
They also face greater exposure – with a tendency to work in sectors such as hospitality and retail, which involve long hours outside the home and in customer-facing roles.
But there were concerns over the lack of government health and safety guidance and PPE provision.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, many BAME business owners’ reported anxieties around the current crisis.
Chrouch said: “I speak to people who have poured their heart, resources and energy into their businesses.
“Through no fault of their own, they have been hit hard and are left feeling helpless and devastated.”
There are calls for greater representation and engagement by policy makers with BAME business owners in order to understand the issues they face and find better solutions.
Chrouch said: “We need representation at the highest level of government, along with better access to funding and business support. A one-size-fits-all approach just doesn’t work.”
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Hospitality & Catering News: BAME hospitality – 22 October 2020 – BAME hospitality.
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