EXCL Ministers accused of 'ignoring' disabled people in no-deal Brexit planning
Ministers have been accused of “ignoring” the effect of a no-deal Brexit on people with disabilities, as it emerged that no formal impact assessment on the issue has yet been carried out.
MPs from across the House of Commons hit out at the Department for Health and Social Care after it said it had not carried out a study of how leaving the EU without a deal could affect disabled people.
The answer was revealed in response to a written question from Labour MP Jo Stevens.
Health minister Caroline Dinenage told her: “No formal impact assessment has been conducted by the Department of the effect on people with disabilities of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without a deal.”
It emerged late last year that Health Secretary Matt Hancock had warned pharmaceutical firms that a no-deal Brexit could lead to six months of border disruption, hitting both imports and exports of critical medical supplies.
MPs warned that people with disabilities could be most affected by the possible disturbance to crucial supply chains - as well as pressure on NHS staffing under a no-deal Brexit.
Ms Stevens told PoliticsHome the answer from the Department was “astonishing”.
She said: “It shows just how unprepared the Tory Government is for leaving the EU without a deal, and how reckless the Tory leadership candidates have been in advocating one.
“People with disabilities will be deeply concerned about their futures and will properly ask why the Government and the candidates to be Prime Minister have ignored them.”
The chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Disability Dr Lisa Cameron also weighed in, saying: “It is further evidence that people with disabilities have been excluded by Government in the planning for Brexit."
The SNP MP - who is also a clinical psychologist - added: "We already know there will be huge potential impact on access to medications and medical aids alongside the negative impact on staff in social care, all of which will impact dramatically upon the most vulnerable.
"This is exactly why the UK Government should be looking at this issue rather than ignoring it."
Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake meanwhile told PoliticsHome: “To not have done any formal assessment on how no-deal Brexit would impact people with disabilities just typifies the absolute disregard this Tory Government pays to the most vulnerable in our society."
And Marsha de Cordova, the shadow minister for disabled people, said people with disabilities had “fallen victim” to the Government’s “shambolic Brexit negotiations”.
The Labour frontbencher told PoliticsHome: “Many disabled people face the prospect of losing out on vital medicines, funding and support as the result of a catastrophic no deal Brexit.
“But the Government is shamefully treating disabled people as collateral damage to the chaos it has created.
“It is disgraceful that the Government continues to ignore the effect of crashing out of the EU on millions of disabled people in this country, some of whom already face destitution as a result of brutal austerity measures.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said the ministry was working with industry and other stakeholders to continue “robust” no-deal contingency planning ahead of the 31 October deadline.
They added: “Our number one priority is for all patients to continue to have access to medicines and medical products - whatever the EU exit date or outcome.”
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), which is currently tasked with responsibility for the welfare of people with disabilities, refused to confirm that it had carried out a formal assessment when asked by PoliticsHome.
A spokesperson said: “The Government is committed to protecting the rights of disabled people and those with health conditions, supporting them into work and to live independently.
“We are preparing for all eventualities to ensure claimants continue to get the right support.”
It is understood that there will be no changes to UK nationals' disability and carer benefits as a result of Brexit.
DISABILITY POLICY SWITCH-UP
The row came as ministers unveiled plans for a new cross-Government approach to disability - set to come into force in November 2019.
Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed that the Office for Disability Issues will transfer from the DWP to the Cabinet Office in a bid to boost support for those with disabilities.
Health and Work minister Justin Tomlinson said: “To inform this new approach, government is committed to strengthening the evidence base on disability and to improve engagement with disabled people and disabled people’s organisations, in line with relevant recommendations from the United Nations."