Below is a copy of a letter we will be sending to both local MPs and to local councillors. It spells out our concerns at a time when everyone is experiencing a new and entirely unfamiliar way of living, which for some vulnerable people is proving extremely challenging:
LETTER FROM DISABILITY PARTNERSHIP CALDERDALE
3 APRIL 2020
I am writing to you from Disability Partnership Calderdale. We are a small local charity which works on behalf of local disabled people, many of whom are members of our organisation.
During the last couple of weeks we have shared the country’s difficult transition into a lockdown situation, whilst trying to provide support to our members and other vulnerable people who have turned to us for help.
Our focus has been on trying to provide accurate and reliably sourced information to guide people the challenges of day-to-day living in a very different world to the one they are used to and we’d like to highlight a couple of key concerns that have been giving us sleepless nights and which worry us deeply.
The first is that many of our members, despite profound disabilities and ill-health, which make them extremely vulnerable to the Coronavirus, do not actually qualify for the government’s “extremely vulnerable” category when they try to apply online:
For many of them, there is the very intimidating prospect of having to leave home to shop and to manage their lives whilst feeling exposed and vulnerable.
We understand that volunteer hubs are being created to pick up the support for these vulnerable people, but there is a lot of confusion and anxiety about how to access this help. In the meantime, a significant number of extremely vulnerable people are being exposed to situations where they feel very frightened and at risk.
The second main area of concern is the vulnerable people who are not on-line. Whilst those of us who use the internet regularly have been able to find support and advice from government and local authorities, those who rely on the telephone have been left out in the cold. Many will have families, neighbours and friends who can help them, but we know from phone calls that we have received that there are significant numbers of people who already led virtually isolated lives and who are now, suddenly, faced with food shortages, exposure to the virus and are utterly bewildered and demoralised.
Our concerns really boil down to those two groups: the extremely vulnerable (due to disabilities and health conditions) who are not on the government’s 1.5 million list; and the isolated who have no means of asking for help and who are effectively invisible to society. Both groups are currently hugely exposed. We recommend that identifying people in both these groups and putting in place communications strategies to reach them and centralised support packages (i.e. not reliant on volunteers) are given the highest possible priority, both by local and central government, and by those organising the volunteer hubs.
As a small insight into the information shortfall that vulnerable people have been facing, our website has seen a 500% increase in traffic in the last two weeks. When we researched and published a list of local food delivery services, it got more traffic in 24 hours than our website normally does in two months. Many people are desperate for information and support. We believe that many of them are simply not getting it!
TRUSTEES – DISABILITY PARTNERSHIP CALDERDALE