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DPOs seek participation in COVID Public Inquiry

07 September 2022

The first module of the COVID Public Inquiry, which focuses on pre-pandemic planning, starts next April. 13 DPOs have applied for Core Participant Status, which if granted will give the right to take part in the Inquiry including accessing relevant documents, making opening and closing submissions and identifying questions for relevant witnesses. The 13 organisations feel strongly that the Inquiry should focus on the hugely negative impact of Coronavirus on Disabled people and learn lessons for the future.

Almost 60% of all deaths from Coronavirus were those of Disabled people. Our case for Core Participant Status points to Disabled people experiencing greater risk of contracting the disease, increased risk of developing a severe case of the disease once contracted and increased risks of negative secondary consequences such as restrictions to movement.

The application points to a number of failings linked to the risks such as poor access to health care, inadequate access to social care, lack of reasonable adjustments and accessible communication and information, and barriers to public and private services including education, retail and transport.

Disabled People's Organisations were at the frontline of the pandemic, providing information in accessible formats, giving practical support to Disabled people left high and dry by statutory agencies and lobbying government to change policies and services. This experience means that we are in a good position to give evidence to the Inquiry, question relevant witnesses and analyse disclosure about what was happening on the ground, what central and local government should have known of the risks to Disabled people and ultimately to draw out lessons for the future.

The Government should have foreseen the negative impact on Disabled people in its pre-pandemic planning and integrated the needs of Disabled people into its response. However, we know this did not happen. Despite signing up to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009, the UK Government failed to implement article 11 on involving Disabled people in emergency planning.

The 13 organisations are, Disability Rights UK, Inclusion Scotland, Disability Wales, Disability Action Northern Ireland, Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, Inclusion London, Disability Positive, Disability Peterborough, Disabled People Against Cuts, Winvisible, Changing Perspectives, Bristol Reclaiming Independent Living and Alliance for Inclusive Education. The 13 DPOs are represented by Shamik Dutta and Niamh McLoughlin at Bhatt Murphy Solicitors together with Shanthi Sivakumaran at Doughty Street Chambers.