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Ministers urged not to ignore the voices of ill and disabled people as lockdown eased

Ministers urged not to ignore the voices of ill and disabled people as lockdown eased

The charities also call for an end to the ‘siloing’ and ‘underfunding’ of social care.

4 min read

Ministers must make sure the voices of ill and disabled people are heard as lockdown measures are eased, a coalition of charities has said.

As the Government lifts a swathe of restrictions on Monday, including allowing shops to reopen, the group of more than 60 health and social care charities say that those who are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 “need to be heard and their experiences and concerns acted on”.

And they warn against “blanket bans” for those who may be more at risk from the virus, with a broader definition of vulnerability needed to guide the Government’s response.

The joint statement has been coordinated by the group National Voices, and signed by organisations including Disability Rights UK, Mind, the Motor Neurone Disease Association, Parkinson’s UK, The Hibbs Lipus Trust and BME Cancer Communities.

Under the Government’s current guidelines, people who count as “clinically extremely vulnerable” are those deemed to be at high risk of getting seriously ill from Covid-19. 

It includes those who have had organ transplants, certain cancers, severe respiratory conditions, and a range of other conditions.

Meanwhile those deemed “vulnerable” to coronavirus include all those over 70, people with underlying health conditions such as heart and respiratory problems, those with diabetes and people who are seriously overweight.

The charities say that these people must be listened to as policymakers shift from “operating in crisis mode" to “ongoing management” of the virus.

They call on those drawing up government policy to do more to “understand how lives are lived by those who have ‘underlying conditions’”.

“People most affected by service cuts, lockdown, self-isolation, and difficulties with accessing food and medicine, need to be heard and their experiences and concerns acted on,” the statement, shared with PoliticsHome, says.

“Policymakers must base their decisions on a deep understanding of how people and patients are affected."

The statement is being sent to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, NHS chief executive Simon Stevens, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, Environment Secretary George Eustice, NHS medical director Steven Powis, and top officials in the health and social care sectors.

'FULL LIVES'

It calls on those making decisions about the next phase of the coronavirus response to make clear that the lives of those with ill health and disabilities are “weighed up the same in any Government policy”.

Ministers, they say, must make it clear “that they want people living with ill health or disability to lead full lives and remain an active part of society” as they make choices about easing lockdown. 

“Even if some people need to live with more severe restrictions, we must take steps to ensure they are able to work, earn money, access clinical care and socialise,” they say.

“We must move through this crisis together, and leave no one behind.”

And they warn that those who are vulnerable to Covid-19 must not face "blanket bans" on living their lives just because of their conditions.

“Having a learning disability does not in itself mean people will have a short life expectancy or poor quality of life, people in care homes are not simply waiting to die,” the statement says.

“Not everyone over 70 privileges safety over family contact. 

It adds: “The category of ‘vulnerable’ needs to be rethought and broadened beyond narrow clinical criteria to include more holistic circumstances that can make people vulnerable, such as domestic violence, poverty, disability or overcrowding.“

The group — which also includes the major care groups Carers UK and Hospice UK — also urges the Government to use the crisis to end the “siloing, underfunding and neglect“ of the social care sector, which has been particularly hard-hit by the virus.

“Any policy efforts to rebuild services need to actively address and dismantle barriers between sectors that only ever mattered to funders and regulators,” the group says.

And they add: “The future will be different. Let’s make sure it will also be more compassionate and equal, with people’s rights at its centre. 

“The many people who died, who lost loved ones, or whose lives have been made immeasurably more difficult deserve nothing less.”

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