Further research showing how many disabled people have died during the later stages of the coronavirus pandemic is not likely to be published until October, according to a government department.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) finally produced figures on 19 June that showed how many disabled people had died of COVID-19 during the early stages of the pandemic.
The figures were published three-and-a-half months after the UK’s first recorded death from the virus.
They showed that about 22,500 disabled people of all ages died due to COVID-19 between 2 March and 15 May, compared with about 15,500 non-disabled people.
They also showed that younger disabled males (those “limited a lot” in daily life and aged between nine and 64) were 6.5 times more likely to have died due to COVID-19 than non-disabled males, while disabled females between nine and 64 were 11.3 times more likely to have died through COVID-19 than non-disabled females in the same age group.
The “shocking” figures led to calls from disabled people’s organisations for an inquiry into the reasons behind the disproportionately high number of deaths of disabled people during the pandemic.
But they only showed deaths up to 15 May, and there are still no figures showing how many disabled people died in the next six weeks.
Such research could show if government measures introduced during May, including its decision to start easing the lockdown, have had a disproportionate impact on disabled people.
Asked by Disability News Service (DNS) this week when updated figures would be published, an ONS spokesperson said: “We are working towards publishing more in-depth analysis of COVID-19 deaths for disabled people and appreciate the importance of this information.
“We will be updating the analysis published in June but also examining wider socio-economic factors which may contribute to increased risk because we want to really add insight. This work is complex and we will publish as soon as we can.”
ONS aims to publish the report in October.
Professor Peter Beresford, co-chair of the service-user and disabled people’s network Shaping Our Lives, said last week’s publication by DNS of new research highlighting the many “appalling breaches” of disabled people’s rights by the government during the pandemic was “rightly being seen as requiring independent inquiry”.
He said it was crucial that ONS followed up the first set of figures, and hoped it would keep to its pledge to do so, but he questioned why it would take until October to produce the new figures.
Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts, welcomed the confirmation from ONS that it would update the figures, and said she was “very pleased” that it appeared to recognise their importance.
Ian Jones, from WOWcampaign, said: “July has not been a good month.
“The Equality and Human Rights Commission failed to announce an inquiry into the deaths of disabled people related to welfare reforms.
“The government’s own Disability Unit has failed to deliver any measures to help disabled people deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Now the ONS is saying that some time in the future they will produce detailed analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on disabled people, examining wider socioeconomic factors.
“Whilst [we welcome] this development, the government has always said this kind of analysis is impossible to do accurately when we called for a cumulative impact assessment of the impact on disabled people of welfare reform.
“If it isn’t measured, it never happened.”
He added: “If anybody is under the impression that disabled people matter as much to society as anybody else, I would like to hear their explanation of July’s events.”
*For sources of information and support during the coronavirus crisis, visit the DNS advice and information page
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