It is universally acknowledged that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on society because it has exacerbated many old and deeply embedded inequalities. And these inequalities are not just restricted to the economic shock of global financial instability and widespread job losses but extend much further into our lives as a result of our gender, how old we are, our ethnic background, where we live, what kind of house we live in, our health and wellbeing, and our behaviours and lifestyle. The unprecedented restrictions placed on our lives in an effort to reduce the spread of the disease and save lives has caused reverberations that will take years, if not decades, to recover from.
The Understanding Inequalities project team is focused on exploring the intricate nature of how inequalities coexist, interact with and perpetuate each other. Moreover, we are interested in both people and place and how inequalities intersect across multiple dimensions of social life. As a result, our research is of significant importance to understanding how the pandemic will play out. Our current work includes understanding how the inequality in educational attainment impacts on our longer-term life chances, how shifting patterns of poverty impact unequally on people’s access to services and jobs, how inequality in exposure to crime affects policing response, and in how poverty and adverse experiences in childhood lead to differential outcomes in terms of problematic behaviour and contact with the justice system. All of these projects will provide valuable insights into how the pandemic might impact in the years ahead.
More specifically we are focusing on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on policing in Scotland. Across the UK, police forces were given temporary powers to prevent people from breaching new public health regulations to control the spread of the virus. These powers include the right to issue Fixed Penalty Notices or arrest someone who was not complying with the regulations. However, concerns have been raised that the regulations did not have an equal impact on all members of society, and as a result, the policing powers have been disproportionately applied to some more vulnerable individuals. We are working with Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority to explore the impact of the pandemic on policing and, more specifically, to examine any inequality in the use of the new policing powers in the Independent Advisory Group (IAG) on police use of the temporary coronavirus powers.