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‘Isolated, alone, forgotten’ – DR UK shielding survey reveals huge sense of lack of safety and neglect

12 June 2020

Eighty-five per cent of people shielding feel unsafe going outside since the relaxing of lockdown rules on 1 June, according to a new survey by DR UK.

Only two-fifths of people shielding from Coronavirus have had the confidence to leave home since the regulations around shielding were eased.

Most people who left their home did so by themselves or with a family member, although some took the opportunity to meet someone outside their household following social distancing advice.

There was a very low level of reported trust in the government’s advice on shielding. Only 15% of people reported they trusted the government’s advice, and only 13% thought the government was following the best available scientific advice on shielding.

The limited list of impairments and health conditions produced by the government has left people with rare conditions or in moderate risk groups particularly confused. Respondents in these categories described particularly difficulties getting food and medication, as they were not able to access volunteer schemes or pharmacy deliveries. A third of people who reported shielding do not have conditions listed on the government’s official list.

Respondents described the government’s communication as being unclear and inconsistent, and many reported they trust their doctor more than the government.

Many respondents found the government’s language around shielding to be unhelpful, and were frustrated by feeling like they were under house arrest, best summed up as: “I've done nothing wrong, I'm not a criminal, I can't help the fact I am ill but it feels like I have committed a crime”.

Many people who are shielding want to go outside but are worried about others not giving them enough space, or not being able to safely access parks or other open spaces where it is easy to maintain physical distancing.

Shielding has thrown people’s lives into disarray; described by one respondent as “I exist but do not live”.

Comments received from survey participants indicated that many feel isolated, alone and forgotten.

DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “The government has failed to deliver strong support for disabled people and those with chronic health conditions throughout the Coronavirus crisis. It is clear that many people do not trust the government’s handling of the crisis to date. If it is to win trust, it must recognise that there are far more people who need proper support beyond those with immuno-suppressed conditions.

“People with autism, sight impairments and mobility issues have all been saying they cannot safely go out and maintain social distancing and may need extra support in terms of consistent home delivery services.

“There has also been a total lack of support to help disabled people boost their mental health and improve access to socialisation through digital means. Many disabled people cannot afford digital technologies, and have not had training in how to use them. Such technologies have been transformative for many people during lockdown – for everything from shopping, to socialising, and working, but many disabled people still remain shut out of digital access. This needs to change.”

DR UK received survey responses from a self-selecting group of 291 people between Friday 5 June and Wednesday 10 June 2020.