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COVID-19: MPs sign letter asking government to provide extra support

wheelchair on cobbled street
wheelchair on cobbled street Image credit: marketplace.org

MPs from all leading parties have wrote to the government asking for more support for disabled people as the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic continues.

The concern was raised after charities said people with disabilities are going through isolation with a lack of social care being made available to them.

A spokesperson for the government addressed the letter saying: "We recognise that this is a challenging time for disabled people, especially because of the impacts of social distancing and changes to routine.

"As we emerge from this unprecedented time we will continue to work with charities and stakeholders so disabled people are at the heart of our recovery."

However, the government’s reply was challenged by Evan Odell from Disability Rights UK, who said: "They roll out a strategy - but once it's been announced it seems up to disabled people and their organisations to point out things that won't work for millions of people.

"They've failed to keep disabled people in mind with things like social care, personal protective equipment, sign language interpreters at press conferences and providing information in accessible formats.

"The current approach puts lives at risk and increases the impact of isolation and exclusion from society in a profound way."

A total of 97 MPs from the Conservatives, Labour, SNP and DUP, signed the letter which asks the government to "re-evaluate its current strategy to ensure social distancing does not lead to exclusion for those with disabilities" and "include people with disabilities in the government's economic recovery plan".

The letter also added healthcare staff caring for disabled people should have extra funding and resources.

Professor in human resources at the University of Warwick, Kim Hoque, said: "The government and employers need to remain mindful that the recession will almost definitely result in disproportionately negative consequences for disabled people unless they put plans into place to ensure this does not happen."

Director of policy at Leonard Cheshire, Gemma Hope, said: "It is essential that the government provides a disability-inclusive COVID-19 response in order to protect the rights of disabled people.

"Without this, disabled people risk being further excluded from society with existing gaps, like access to employment, likely to widen."

An emergency legislation which was passed by Parliament in March allowed councils to cease their commitments to the Care Act 2014, such as supporting individuals and carers, so they could focus on the coronavirus crisis.

Charities have also showed concern on the impact social distancing is having on day services and mental health services.

Chair of the disability all-party parliamentary group, SNP MP Lisa Cameron, said: "The disabled community have overwhelming support of MPs and peers who have signed the letter and we are collectively asking the prime minister to ensure a disability inclusive Covid-19 response".

The founder of Mobility, Lord Sterling, who signed the letter, said they wanted disabled people to be "fully aware that we are concerned about the loneliness and anxiety they may be going through due to COVID-19 - both now and in the future.

"The prime minister is a man of great empathy and I very much look forward to him responding positively to Lisa's letter."

Tory MP Mike Penning, who also signed the letter, said: "As a former disabilities minister I hope this sends a message to the government that disabled people need more help than ever at this vital time."

A spokesperson for the government said: "We are working closely with local authorities and the food industry to maintain access and deliver essential items to those who are most vulnerable, and are clear that where possible urgent and acute care needs should continue to be met."

A recent study implies disabled people will be hit harder than others by a coronavirus-related economic downturn.