The Scottish government failed to deliver on the rights of disabled people during the pandemic, even though it wanted to do so, two national disabled people’s organisations have told the UK Covid inquiry.
They said the quality of the conversation on disability rights was better in Scotland than in Westminster, as was “the level of awareness of what needed to be done”.
But they also told the inquiry: “Scotland did not show itself to be particularly progressive in the actual delivery of human rights.”
Barrister Danny Friedman, from Matrix Chambers, who delivered the closing statement on behalf of Inclusion Scotland and DR UK, said there had been “a gulf between aspiration and deed”.
He pointed to the Scottish government’s failure to create a separate Covid plan for disabled people that “anticipated and prevented hardship” and would have addressed the “foreseeable collapse in care” and the difficulty sourcing food and other resources experienced by those both on and not on the list of those seen as being at highest risk from the virus.
He told the inquiry that disabled people had been missing from the pandemic disaster management system.
He said: “The notion that no-one should be left behind was effectively thwarted before the crisis started.
“That situation produced a chain reaction across all aspects of decision-making and government services, because everything that followed was reactive government, not proactive, and despite intentions, not especially collaborative.”
Despite disabled people already being in a “dire state of crisis” when the pandemic began, Inclusion Scotland and DR UK said the impact of public health and social measures on them “was not sufficiently mitigated”.
They said they had challenged how the UK government had ignored the rights of disabled people in earlier inquiry hearings, and now contrasted that with a Scottish government that “failed to deliver on their rights despite wanting to do so”.
Friedman pointed out how the Scottish government had – in the early stages of the pandemic – announced £350 million funding to support local services, and released £100 million to councils to stop social care being withdrawn or reduced.
But he told the inquiry: “Obviously these are important sums, but the money was not accompanied by sufficiently detailed programmes of how to channel it to the harder-to-reach, and how to transparently audit its effectiveness.
“It was not designed with and for DPOs and disabled people who would know how to do that.
“Its result was not as sufficiently redistributive or effective as it could have been.”
The two DPOs pointed out that a survey of 800 disabled people carried out by Inclusion Scotland in April 2020 showed that more than half of those who responded were no longer receiving health or care visits to their home, while one in eight had been forced to breach shielding rules to secure food or medicine.
And they highlighted the “serious shortcomings” with data collection during the pandemic.
Friedman told the inquiry that how little was known in this area was a “defining feature of residential and domiciliary care” and that, no matter the intentions, “the uncounted count for less”.
He said: “Pandemics teach us that data is absolutely an issue of human rights and humanity.”
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