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Don't withdraw Care Act from Coronavirus Bill, urge disability charities

23 March 2020

Disability Rights UK has acted alongside other national disability organisations to urge government not to withdraw Care Act rights from disabled people as proposed in the Emergency Coronavirus Bill being discussed in parliament today. 

This follows DR UK calling on its supporters to take immediate action to write to their MPs asking that disabled people’s rights are not dismantled by the emergency coronavirus legislation .

Fazilet Hadi, Head of Policy said: "Our key concern is that the Bill enables local authorities to suspend rights to assessment and support under the Care Act. Given that it is only people with the highest needs that receive local authority care and support, it can’t be right to leave this group of people without this vital life line.

"We also oppose the reduction of protections for people being detained under the Mental Health Act. Removing liberty is a drastic action and safeguards need to be in place. 

"DR UK understands these are unprecedented times, but removing rights and protections from disabled people who are most at risk cannot be justified."

The letter reads thus:

Coronavirus Bill and Disabled People

We are a group of leading national disability organisations, speaking up for millions of disabled people of all ages. We are extremely concerned about the Coronavirus Bill’s removal of rights and safeguards for disabled people.    

The Government and the entire country is facing an unprecedented crisis, but we have to work together to make sure this is not at the expense of disabled people. Sadly, we believe that the current Coronavirus Bill risks just that in a number of ways. We would ask that these provisions are revised urgently, as they relate to disabled people, to better reflect the balance between meeting the needs of the crisis, with ensuring the continuation of rights and safeguards for disabled people. Where emergency powers are outlined, we also believe that more information about how the Government will try and avoid them being used (through investment and other mitigation) would help us reassure the 14 million disabled people in the UK we collectively represent.

We would ask that current rights and safeguards relating to the detention of people with mental health conditions are maintained. Given the magnitude of the withdrawal of liberty, it is not reasonable or proportionate to rely on the judgement of a single doctor, or to remove all time limits and consequent review processes.

We would ask that rights to assessments, care plans and rehabilitation for disabled people must be maintained. It is currently only those with the highest levels of need, who receive help, and it cannot be right to leave this group of people without the right to assessment and support.

Similarly, protections relating to disabled children must be maintained. Again, it is only those with the highest needs that receive support.

Whilst it is fully acknowledged that proposals have been made with the best intentions, to reduce administration and free up the time of professionals, the above rights and safeguards cannot be viewed as administrative processes, they are there to make sure that support and protection is given to those who need it most.  

The government has made it clear that it wants to support people through these difficult times, but we fear that the Bill’s proposed withdrawal of rights and safeguards for disabled people requiring care and support, will put those in greatest need at greatest risk.

We would urge government not to dismantle the rights and safeguards of disabled people.

Yours,

Mark Hodgkinson, CEO, Scope (DCC Co-Chair)

Neil Heslop, CEO, Leonard Cheshire (DCC Co-Chair)

Caroline Stevens, CEO, National Autistic Society

Edel Harris, CEO, Mencap

Kamran Mallick, CEO, Disability Rights UK

Mark Atkinson, CEO, Action on Hearing Loss

Matt Stringer, CEO, RNIB

Paul Farmer, CEO, Mind

Richard Kramer, CEO, Sense