A disabled woman at high risk of serious illness if she is infected with COVID-19 has been told by her local authority to order protective equipment from Amazon, even though it would take at least a month to arrive from China.
Mary* – who uses direct payments to employ personal assistants (PAs) in her own home – said the exchange of emails with a care coordinator employed by her local council has demonstrated the poor advice disabled people in her position are receiving from central and local government.
She said it also highlights again that many disabled people who employ PAs are finding it impossible to secure the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic (see separate story).
Even though Mary told the council care coordinator that she was at high risk of serious illness because of asthma and a neuromuscular condition, she was advised to buy the PPE she needed to stay safe online from Amazon.
The only PPE available online has to be ordered from China, said Mary, and takes at least a month to arrive, so the care co-ordinator suggested she try Boots instead, before appearing to admit that they only sell gloves.
The care coordinator – who works for East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) – eventually admitted that it was a problem supplying PPE to everyone, “right across all sectors”.
She then appeared to suggest that Mary could make her own masks at home, telling her: “I’ve made a few masks for home should I show any symptoms so that I can hopefully not pass the virus on.”
Mary told Disability News Service that she was concerned about both disabled people in her area who use direct payments to provide support in their home, and the PAs who are being put at risk themselves.
She said: “Disabled people and carers are just being sacrificed, with nobody even providing advice of any sort to people on direct payments, never mind practical help.”
She said there was clearly a postcode lottery when it came to securing PPE, as she had been told by a union colleague that at least one local authority had provided PPE to service-users who employ PAs.
Asked to respond to Mary’s concerns, an ERYC spokesperson was unable by noon today (Thursday) to explain the care coordinator’s advice.
But she said its social care team was “in touch regularly with residential and domiciliary care providers and are offering support where needed in terms of PPE and supplies, as well as ensuring that they have access to the right information and that guidance is clear and understood”.
She said a “dedicated team of people are working to ensure PPE is secured from a range of suppliers”, while residents “can access the council’s website for information on how to get support”.
She said the council had also helped set up a “community response hub” to work alongside community and voluntary groups across the area that are already providing support to those “who don’t have a network of family, friends, neighbours or carers to call upon”.
*Not her real name
**Links to sources of information and support during the coronavirus pandemic include the following:
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