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Learning the Lessons – The Unequal Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Voices of People and Communities

In April 2023, we held a workshop with members, supported by The Disrupt Foundation, on the unequal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We explored how communities and groups were affected differently by both the virus itself and the measures brought in to control it.

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  • Unequal Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • COVID-19
  • Health inequalities
  • Lived experience

Our engagement painted a grim picture of the ways in which the pandemic response exacerbated existing, deep-rooted inequalities across the UK and compounded the disadvantages experienced by people from minoritised communities, by disabled people and by people living with long term conditions. 

Just some examples include people who are immunocompromised, who were asked to go into isolation for huge periods of time and still feel completely overlooked as control measures have been lifted. Or the use of DNRs (Do Not Resuscitate orders) which were disproportionately applied to people with learning disabilities. 

There have already been a range of influential reports, drawing attention to data demonstrating the unequal impacts of the pandemic, and examining their underlying causes. We do not seek to replicate this work, but instead build on it by bringing additional insights from the unique group of individuals and organisations in National Voices’ own network. 

With the Covid-19 Inquiry underway, it is imperative that we capture the lessons learnt from the pandemic, and use them to suggest action for the future. We commend the lessons learned through this work to the Inquiry and hope they will recommend the actions we have identified.  

This small-scale engagement programme enabled enormous insight to be gathered and digested. We have already met with the Inquiry team to support them in their work to engage meaningfully with people and communities most impacted by the pandemic and stand ready to constructively help to take this important work forward. 

If you would like to read this report in an alternative format, please get in touch.


We would like to thank all of our members who contributed to this work, but in particular those who lead the discussions at our workshop in April 2023:

Jabeer Butt, Chief Executive of the Race Equality Foundation

Abigail Gorman, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at SignHealth

Tracey Loftis, Head of Policy, Public Affairs and Engagement at Versus Arthritis

Dr Jo Brown, Research Manager at Groundswell.

We would also like to thank The Disrupt Foundation for their support of this work.

Read the report