Closing Statement From COVID Inquiry Lawyers Representing Disabled People's Organisations

Wed,13 December 2023
News Equality & Rights Health & Social Care
On 13th December, lawyers representing DPOs made closing submissions for Module 2 of the COVID Inquiry, which focused on government decision making. For around three months, the Inquiry has been hearing from senior civil servants and political advisers, top scientists and government ministers, on what they did and didn’t do.

The closing submission made on behalf of DPOs opened with the brutal fact that it was the UK Government’s choice to de-prioritise the needs of the UK’s 14 million Disabled people. 

The submission went on to highlight the gross inadequacy of planning in respect of Disabled people. Despite being 20% of the population, the lack of pre-pandemic planning, compounded by the absence of coordinated planning during the pandemic, was utterly breathtaking. 

The Inquiry revealed a complete vacuum of leadership on disability related matters. The Minister for Disabled People was, in effect, just a Minister for Disability Benefits, notes of strategy groups showed actions on disability weren’t followed up and reviews into inequality excluded Disabled people. 

Despite the lack of diversity in the governmental room, and the fact that the pandemic disproportionately affected Disabled people, the level of engagement with Disabled people’s organisations was almost non-existent. 

In terms of support and protection, thousands of Disabled people who should have been on the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable list, weren’t on it, thousands of Disabled people who needed social care weren’t prioritised, millions of Disabled people on benefits received no £20 per week uplift, and millions of us who needed reasonable adjustments and support, just weren’t on anyone’s radar. Ministers gave evidence that the pandemic’s likely on Disabled people was “obvious”. The Inquiry evidence has shown it was obvious to everyone, but the responsibility of no-one. 

The DPO closing submission called on the Inquiry to make recommendations that ensure effective future Government leadership, planning and engagement in respect of Disabled people. If things had been done differently, it is likely that fewer Disabled people would have died and fewer faced untold misery and hardship. 

Kamran Mallick, DR UK's CEO said: 'For decades Disabled people and Disabled People's Organisations (DPOs) have been asking the Government to set up robust engagement structures with us. We have explained that by bringing our lived experience and knowledge into government we can help shape their thinking, and improve their policies and actions. This has never been acted upon.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD) committee told the UK Government back in 2017 that it must improve how it engaged with Disabled people through DPOs. It ignored this too and now we see how this government views Disabled people.

The pandemic shown a bright light on the frailty of support that is offered to 20% of the population. We were not thought about, we were not considered, we were not valued and we were a burden to their plans. Over 60% of deaths were Disabled people and those with long-term health conditions. These are not just numbers, these are individual lives, family, friends, neighbours and colleagues. They died because they were not seen. We were collateral damage.

This cannot go on, and next time we cannot accept the same outcome. It is time for change, it is time for us to stand together and demand that the next government does things differently.'

You can view the full closing submission on our Facebook page.

You can read the full transcription of the submission by downloading the PDF below.

Full Closing Submission on behalf of DPOs