DPOs demand removal of Coronavirus Act easements

Thu,18 March 2021
News Health & Social Care

Disabled People’s Organisations from across the UK led by Inclusion London and Disability Rights UK have written an open letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock asking for the suspension of easement powers for local authorities contained within the Coronavirus Act 2020. The Act will be reviewed by Parliament next week.

The letter cites how evidence continues to mount about the lethal and disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on Disabled people.

Disabled people have made up almost two thirds of all deaths. People of colour, including Disabled people of colour, have also been disproportionately impacted, facing higher risks and higher death rates from the virus.

The letter argues that the provisions in Schedule 12 of the Coronavirus Act diminish Disabled people’s rights to care and support and should be removed. Disabled people should have full Care Act rights restored.  

Eight councils officially implemented easements for a limited period last spring and they have not been used by any councils since. Given the Government’s road map to recovery, there is no justification for retaining these powers.

Sections 92 and 93 of the Coronavirus Act allow for the easement powers granted to local authorities to be suspended by statutory instrument.

The Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, Rt Hon Caroline Nokes MP, has also written to health and social care and education Ministers urging swift action to remove the easements.

DR UK’s CEO Kamran Mallick said: “These easements still hang over the heads of Disabled people, adding anxiety and uncertainty to what has been a devastatingly hard year for so many of us. It is only right that as the Government steers the country into the recovery phase, that they are suspended, and that Councils are given the resources they need to provide adequate care and support for those who need it.”

Inclusion London CEO Tracey Lezard said: “Including the Care Act easements in the Coronavirus Act was a big mistake. This sent a clear message to disabled people that our rights and support can easily be removed. The pandemic has shown the government can find resources to make things happen, but unfortunately ensuring continuity of social care support for all disabled and people was not a priority. We heard many stories of people losing their social care support during the pandemic. 

“The government must act now to make things right. The easements must be scrapped, the government must also recognise the importance of social care support for disabled people, ensure it is adequately funded and listen to our voices when developing proposals for social care reform.”

Read the letter.