The European Disability Forum (EDF) has raised concerns that segregated residential institutions for disabled people across Europe are becoming “hotbeds of infection and abuse” during the coronavirus pandemic.
EDF said the institutions face a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for disabled people and staff; a lack of care due to staff shortages; and forced medication and restraint measures taken “under the pretence of preventive measures”.
EDF has collected examples from Germany, Poland, Spain, Italy and Greece, including 70 people becoming infected in an institution for people with learning difficulties in Italy because of a lack of PPE, and mental health units locking service-users in their rooms in Greece.
The Commonwealth Disabled People’s Forum has issued a statement and recommendations for how governments can ensure disabled people throughout the Commonwealth “are not disadvantaged and have their needs met” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The forum, which represents disabled people’s organisations in 46 countries of the Commonwealth, says in its statement: “History shows us that in the past, disabled people have been inhumanely treated at times of political, social and humanitarian/medical crisis and this must not be repeated.”
The national conference of the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA), which had been due to take place in Manchester on 22 April, and was called off because of the COVID-19 crisis, will now take place online instead.
The conference – Post election: what now? Planning the future for our movement and campaigns – will take place on 22 and 23 April and aims to “plan campaigns, set priorities and hear from campaigns and disabled people’s organisations from around England”.
Inclusion London has launched a survey to try to build a picture of how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting social care around England.
It plans to use the results to “present a case to ministers based on people’s day-to-day experiences of using social care”, and so influence government policy.
Members of the Disability Benefits Consortium have written to work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey, to call for urgent changes to the benefits system to protect disabled and seriously unwell people during the COVID-19 crisis.
Among the measures they want to see are interim payments being made from the first day of a claim for personal independence payment or universal credit (UC), and the increase announced in the UC standard allowance to be matched with similar rises for “legacy” benefits such as employment and support allowance.
The government has announced a £5 million grant for mental health charities, to be administered by Mind, to fund services for people struggling with their mental health during the COVID-19 crisis.
It said Mind would use its links with other charities, including grassroots, user-led organisations, to reach “vulnerable groups who are at particular risk during this period”.
The House of Commons women and equalities committee has launched an inquiry into whether some groups in society are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and by the government’s response to the pandemic.
Evidence can be submitted to the committee until 30 April.
Equality and discrimination experts at Fry Law have published template letters for disabled people to use if they are facing discrimination during the coronavirus crisis, which can be downloaded free.
Fry Law is also organising twice-weekly online sessions that will offer disability rights advice on issues arising from the COVID-19 crisis, featuring advice from Fry Law’s Chris Fry and equality and human rights barrister Cathy Casserley, from Cloisters Chambers.
The online sessions will take place between 6pm and 7pm every Tuesday and Friday.
*Sources of information and support during the coronavirus pandemic include the following:
Picture: ROFA’s 2016 national conference in Sheffield
A note from the editor:
Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations.
Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009.
Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…