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Sun, 27 September 2020

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The Government has failed ‘spectacularly’ to support disabled people returning to work

The Government has failed ‘spectacularly’ to support disabled people returning to work

The Government has failed spectacularly at communicating with disabled and shielding people, writes Vicky Foxcroft MP. | PA Images

3 min read

Two thirds of all Covid-19 deaths so far have been disabled people. The Government needs to ensure those who were shielding are not forced to go back to an unsafe workplace.

Since the national shielding programme ended on the 1st of August, lots of people have asked if I am happy to be out of shielding. It’s a mixed bag. 

Sadly, I am not the only person in my situation with concerns.

A recent Office of National Statistics (ONS) survey found that 73.6% of disabled adults reported they were "very worried" or "somewhat worried" about the effect that the coronavirus was having on their life.  

The Government has failed spectacularly at communicating with disabled and shielding people. We have been classed as extremely medically vulnerable, so much so that we haven't left our homes for over four months; yet we have been made to feel like an afterthought. 

The national shielding programme has been suspended yet a lot of questions still remain unanswered. 

What do people do if their workplace isn't Covid secure? What support is there for those who can't go back to work just yet, and for those employers who want to make sure they are doing the right thing?

It is vital that as we move forward the Government listens to the fears and concerns of disabled and shielding people.

As shadow minister for disabled people, I have repeatedly called for the Government to take action in three key areas to give shielding and disability people much needed support.

First, funding promised to local government needs to be delivered so councils up and down the country can afford to deliver services.

When the pandemic started, local authorities were told to spend what they needed; the Government would have their backs. Sadly, and unsurprisingly, the Government has gone back on this offer.

With many town halls already having to make unbearable cuts, the Prime Minister needs to step up and deliver on his promise of funding. 

Second, the Government needs to ensure those who were shielding are not forced to go back to an unsafe workplace.

Clear guidance needs to be set out for local lockdowns; if the Covid-19 cases in the area have spiked, surely it's safer and more appropriate for those who are medically extremely vulnerable return to shielding?

Finally, now is the time for the Government to step up its communications and ensure that disabled people and those who have been shielding are fully informed of their rights and protections.  

The mistakes made by the Government during the first wave of Covid-19 were dangerous.

A number of disabled people led organisations recently wrote the Prime Minister on the fact two thirds of all deaths so far have been disabled people.

Disability Rights UK and other DPOs wrote about how disabled people experienced challenges in accessing health and social care, problems in buying food, digital exclusion and deterioration of mental health. Even when some of these issues were resolved, food and medication continued to be an issue.

As a fellow shielder, I know first-hand the many problems people have faced in accessing the shielding lists.

It is vital that as we move forward the Government listens to the fears and concerns of disabled and shielding people.

Ministers must learn from and correct their mistakes. Not doing so will have potentially devastating consequences for those who have already been heavily impacted by the Covid-19 crisis.

 

Vicky Foxcroft is the Labour MP for Lewisham Deptford and shadow minister for disabled people.

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Connecting Communities

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