Disabled People’s Organisations slam UK Government pandemic failures over Covid

Wed,4 October 2023
News Equality & Rights Health & Social Care
Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs): Disability Rights UK, Inclusion Scotland, Disability Wales and Disability Action Northern Ireland, yesterday criticised key failures in the UK Government’s handling of the pandemic and their devastating impact on the UK’s 14 million Disabled people at the opening hearing for Module 2 of the Covid-19 Public Inquiry.

In doing so they identified previously confidential documents which now show that Ministers, including the Prime Minister, chose to delay focussing upon and remedying the impact of the pandemic on Disabled people.

The Inquiry heard that despite Disabled people constituting 20% of the UK’s population, they died disproportionately constituting six out of ten of those who died of Covid. The Inquiry also heard that Disabled people suffered disproportionately as a result of the lockdowns because the person the Government imagined when it told everyone “to stay at home” was a non-disabled, autonomous person who could financially, physically and logistically afford to stay there. It did not imagine the Disabled person who had no spare room to isolate in, the Disabled person dependent on assistance from others, the Disabled person who could not stay at home, or isolate within it, because they needed to care for someone else, or because they could not survive without going out to work.

The DPOs criticised the following key failures:

  • There was no plan for Disabled people throughout the first and second waves of the pandemic. There was no high-level Ministerial meeting on the impact of Covid on Disabled people until 21 May 2020 and the outcome of that meeting was just ‘a plan to get a plan’. There was a direction from Boris Johnson and Michael Gove as late as November 2020 that planning for Disabled people was to go at a “slower time” than focus on other disproportionately impacted groups. This was despite knowing by June 2020 that Disabled people were dying in disproportionate numbers and despite Michael Gove, in October 2020, declaring that “time is running out” for the risks to Disabled people, amongst others, to be mitigated in the second wave.
  • There was Government non-compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, despite ratifying the Convention as long ago as 2009.
  • There was central government reliance on the voluntary sector and community to fill gaps in support for Disabled people, but without mandating that they be involved in planning, or being funded to respond.
  • None of the key decision making during the pandemic was informed by the expertise of Disabled people There was no proper engagement with Disabled people in the emergency response.
  • Despite obvious risks to Disabled people from the outset the Government did not properly engage with them or their organisations during the pandemic response
  • The financial provision for Disabled people during the pandemic was extraordinarily limited. In its briefing to the Covid-O group on 30 October 2020, the Government’s Disability Unit acknowledged the disproportionate financial impact of Covid on Disabled people but failed to remedy this.

Mr Kamran Mallick, CEO of Disability Rights UK said:

“The consequences of COVID touched every Disabled person and their family and friends. Almost 60% of people who died from COVID were Disabled people. We found ourselves dismissed and patronised as “vulnerable”, we were last in the queue for health care, our social care was removed or reduced, our rights were restricted and our reasonable adjustments were denied. Disabled people were left without food, were forced to receive support from carers without PPE or testing, were compelled to give up work, were denied assistance on public transport and were harassed for legitimately not wearing face coverings.’’

To follow the Covid enquiry live, go to Youtube.