At least 10 disabled MPs and peers have signed a letter calling on the prime minister to ensure that the government improves its support for disabled people in its response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The letter, sent to Boris Johnson by the all-party parliamentary group for disability and signed by 100 MPs and peers, calls for a “disability inclusive” response to the crisis.
It warns Johnson that disabled people are “disproportionately at higher risk from COVID-19 and its long term social and economic consequences”, yet the government’s existing emergency responses to the pandemic have failed to prioritise them.
It says the inequalities faced by disabled people have been “exacerbated” during the crisis, while their rights and protections are being “weakened”.
It points to key areas where disabled people’s rights are at risk, including the right to healthcare, the right to social care and support, and the right to information.
Among the concerns raised in the letter is the impact of the government’s emergency Coronavirus Act, which allows the suspension of some of the duties of local authorities contained within the Care Act.
The letter demands information on how disabled people can challenge decisions to cut or remove their support that are taken as a result of the suspension of these duties.
It also highlights the government’s failure to ensure there is a British Sign Language interpreter at its daily televised briefings.
It calls on the government to “re-evaluate” its pandemic strategy to ensure that disabled people can secure the groceries, medication and care and support they need.
And it says the government must “accelerate” efforts to include disabled people in its economic recovery plan.
It warns: “We cannot allow the disability-employment gap or the treatment of disabled people in the workplace to worsen as a result of this pandemic, and the Government must address this issue by undertaking an impact assessment of the recovery plan based upon equalities principles.”
The letter warns that what the government does now to “support, include and enable” disabled people “will have significant socio-economic and equality implications for years to come”
The letter has been signed by 100 cross-party parliamentarians, including the crossbench disabled peers Baroness [Jane] Campbell, Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson, Lord [Colin] Low and Baroness Masham, Labour’s disabled former home secretary Lord [David] Blunkett and the disabled Liberal Democrat peers Baroness [Sal] Brinton, Baroness [Celia] Thomas and Lord Addington.
It has also been signed by two disabled Tories, former transport minister Paul Maynard and Lord [Kevin] Shinkwin.
Fazilet Hadi, policy lead at Disability Rights UK, said: “It’s great to see this well supported parliamentary initiative and it would be good to have even more signatures on the letter.
“We’d urge government to respond quickly and positively.
“Whilst the commitment to a longer-term Disability Strategy is welcome, let’s develop a strategy now, for the situation we’re in.”
Picture: (Clockwise, from top left) Baroness Thomas, Baroness Campbell, Baroness Grey-Thompson and Lord Low
*Links to sources of information and support during the coronavirus pandemic include the following:
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