Updated: Oct 9
The theme for Black History Month 2023 is 'Saluting our Sisters'. It highlights the crucial role Black women have played in shaping history, inspiring change and building communities.
Statistics show that by 1954 there were more than 3,000 women from the Caribbean training as nurses in British hospitals (1). This contribution to British society stems from a propensity to care by African and African Caribbean women: as mothers, aunties, grandmothers, sisters, neighbours and friends. Even now, 18.5% of Black workers are in 'caring, leisure and other services' jobs – the highest percentage out of all ethnic groups (2).
Up to 81% of all caregivers, formal and informal, are female (3) and disproportionately of black ethnic groups; and no wonder when caring roles often starts, if not as a child, then from giving birth. Since data collection began in 2007, it has shown that babies from the Black ethnic group have had the highest proportion of preterm births. In 2021, 8.7% of live births in the Black ethnic group were preterm (4). As babies who are born prematurely develop into children and adults, they may suffer from conditions such as behavioural difficulties, long-term health problems, or cerebral palsy, and have a higher chance of requiring special educational needs at school (5). Parents are more likely to suffer with mental health problems due to the stress, and mothers are more prone to post natal depression; with the potential for multiple caring roles, including those of older children in the household as Young Carers.
If you are African or African Caribbean and living in the UK, you're more likely than people from other cultures to have certain health conditions, including high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes and prostate cancer and conditions such as sickle cell disorder mainly affects people of Black heritage (6).
The 2021 Census data shows some of the highest numbers in unpaid caring roles are from black ethnic groups - and always predominantly female (7).
And the caring roles are not made easy. According to the latest data analysis by Carers UK, the impact of caring during the pandemic may not have been felt equally by different groups in society (8).
'The charity’s analysis of unpaid carers: ’The experiences of Black, Asian and minority ethnic carers during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic', revealed responses to surveys conducted during the pandemic. The analysis found that carers from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds were:
more likely to be impacted by the closure of local services
more likely to state that the services in their area did not meet their needs
more anxious about their current financial situation
more likely to be struggling to make ends meet
Although a US-centred, Aisha Adkins uses her own story to hi-light historic points of reference in her article, The Cycle of Care: How Generational Caregiving Disproportionately Impacts Black Women (9). As Aisha says her own situation is far from unique, and as times have changed, more women are juggling, not just family and caring responsibilities, but paid work too.
This month we are saluting our black sisters, but also shouting that you are not alone. Your local Carers Centre is here to support you alongside all other unpaid Carers. Whether you only need one answer to one question once, or ongoing support, pick up the phone, email or drop-in, or complete our website contact or registration form to get in touch.
We salute you and we are here for you.
(1) The story of black nurses in the UK didn't start with Windrush, Lynn Eaton, The Guardian, Wednesday 13 May 2020