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Government has broken equality laws during pandemic, Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary tells EHRC

21 October 2020

The Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, Marsha de Cordova, has urged the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to investigate the government for breaking the law over the impacts of Coronavirus on disabled people.

In a letter to the Chief Executive of the EHRC, she says that evidence of poorer health and economic outcomes has been ignored when laws have been created to tackle the impacts of the virus, breaching the Equality Act.

She said: “Equal opportunity does not mean treating everybody the same and seeing who sinks and who swims. The government must take proactive steps to prevent the disproportionate impact of Covid on Black, Asian and minority ethnic, and disabled people.

“Its failure to do so is negligent, discriminatory and unlawful, and Ministers must be held to account.”

The letter claims that only the Coronavirus Act was subject to an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA), but that it was four months overdue and flawed. Neither the Winter Economy Plan nor the Job Retention Scheme had associated EIAs.

It highlights ONS statistics which show that 59% of people in England and Wales who died of the virus between 2 March and 14 July were disabled.  

It also criticises the government’s lack of inclusive and accessible communication about the pandemic saying: “This was particularly evident throughout the government’s Covid-19 daily briefings when it failed to use sign language interpretation.”