Open Letter to Calderdale Council: Disabled people, Coronavirus and care

A number of Calderdale’s disability groups and organisations have written an open letter to Calderdale Council and prominent local politicians expressing their concerns over the care provisions for disabled people in the area. Here’s that letter in full:

Disabled people, Coronavirus and care – Urgent to Calderdale Council:

Iain Baines, Director of Adult Services and Wellbeing
Ged Taylor, Interim Assistant Director, Adults Health and Social Care
Paul Butcher, Director of Public Health
Michelle Neville-Cooper, Direct Payments team manager
Cllr Tim Swift, Council Leader
Cllr Adam Wilkinson, Cabinet member, Children and young people’s services
Cllr Bob Metcalfe, Cabinet member for Adult Services and Wellbeing
Calder Ward and Luddendenfoot Ward Councillors
Craig Whitaker MPHebden Royd Town Council

Dear Councillors, officers and colleagues,

Disabled people in Calderdale, including our members, are expressing a number of urgent concerns about the mounting COVID-19 crisis.

We should be very grateful if Calderdale Council could address these concerns immediately with a public information campaign, and with targeted information in emails, first class letters or phone calls to all Calderdale residents known to be chronically sick or disabled, and via GP surgeries. Including of course disabled children. (Do you have a register of disabled people?). We shall be happy to spread such information through our own networks, to reach people who may not be known to the Council.

Issues raised include:

Disabled people who employ their own carers – hundreds of whom do so through Calderdale’s Direct Payments scheme

  • what are their responsibilities (including moral, not just legal, responsibilities) as employers to pay Personal Assistants who are off work due to sickness or to self-isolation, and will Direct Payments immediately provide necessary extra funding?
  • what do employers do if they become sick themselves – should PAs be prepared to continue work and is Calderdale Council able to provide Personal Protection Equipment for such workers, and safe working advice to national standards?
  • if PAs are off work or will not work with employers who have suspected Coronavirus, will Calderdale provide emergency care and by what means?

Disabled people whose family members, friends or neighbours are their carers –

  • what happens to them if their carers become sick with Coronavirus?
  • what alternative emergency care will be available, and who will immediately fund it?

Disabled people living in residential care –

  • are contingency plans in place to maintain adequate staffing levels throughout the borough when care workers are off sick?

Disabled (and older) people who are self- isolating – communication

  • are there plans to ensure that everyone has the technology (mobile phone, tablet or laptop pc, and suitable broadband provision or mobile data service) to stay in touch with friends, neighbours, family, colleagues etc whilst self-isolating? Many disabled people are on low incomes and cannot afford these items, and usually use public libraries or cafes with free broadband to access the internet. Unalleviated isolation of such people at home could create a mental health crisis to add to the COVID-19 crisis (especially as some of these people are already disabled due to mental health issues, autism, dementia etc).

Please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss any issues. Although our organisations are not available for face-to-face meetings in the current circumstances, we might be able to meet by video call (e.g. Zoom or Skype), by telephone conference calls or individual phone calls. Our organisations have pre-existing online networks, remote meeting procedures and internal consultation mechanisms.

With all good wishes for your continued work in emergency planning.

We are, sincerely,


Hebden Bridge Disability Access Forum (HBDAF): June Eaton
Accessible Calderdale Disability Access Forum (ACDAF): Katie Clarke and Lorraine Beiley
Disability Partnership Calderdale (DPC): sec. Malcolm Kielty MBE
Healthy Minds Calderdale: Lou Birks
Age Concern Todmorden: Alex
Accessible Todmorden Forum