|‘Forgotten generation’ of people with learning disabilities died of Covid
A Public Health England (PHE) report has shown that people with learning disabilities were up to six times more likely to die from Coronavirus in the first wave of the pandemic, with the death rate being 30 times higher for those aged 18-34.
Between 21 March and 5 June, 451 people with a learning disability per 100,000, died of the virus. Gaps in the data have led researchers to estimate that it could be as high as 692 per 100,000 people – a rate 6.3 times higher than for people without learning disabilities.
A third of those who died with a learning disability during the first wave were living in residential care. Almost half of those with Downs Syndrome who died were living in a care home.
Mencap’s Head of Policy Dan Scorer said: “The government has failed to protect a group who already experienced serious health inequalities.
“Decades of under-investment in social care have left most people with a learning disability with no support to understand ever-changing guidance on staying safe and accessing testing.”
DR UK Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “This story echoes the CQC data from June. Far too many people with learning disabilities have died during this pandemic. People with learning disabilities are often treated as out of sight, out of mind. While news headlines were focused on older people, a forgotten generation of people with learning disabilities were also losing their lives. These deaths were preventable. These people mattered. The fact they died, en masse, with such a statistical disparity compared to the general population, matters. Government needs to ensure its action in this second wave is fast, strong, and life saving.”
PHE Director of Health Improvement Professor John Newton said: “Action must be taken to prevent this happening again. It is deeply troubling that one of the most vulnerable groups in our society suffered so much during the first wave of the pandemic. But with cases developing across the country, it is essential to practice rigorous infection control if you are in contact with someone with a learning disability, whether or not they live in a care home.”
Social Care Minister Helen Whately said that the government’s scientific advisory group Sage would be asked to review the findings. “There is now regular testing of staff and residents in care homes, and testing has also been rolled out to supported living settings in high risk areas,” she said.
Read more on the GOV.UK website.
119,000 sign DBC petition calling on Chancellor to increase legacy benefits
The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) has handed in a petition, signed by 119,000 people, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak requesting that the £20 per week uplift which has been applied to Universal Credit is also applied to legacy benefits such as ESA.
Two million people are on such benefits. The ‘Don’t Leave Disabled People Behind’ petition was set up by the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), a network of over 100 organisations, including Disability Rights UK, the MS Society, Z2K, and Inclusion London, ahead of the spending review and annual benefit uprating.
For over eight months, thousands of people living with a disability or with long-term health conditions have faced immense hardship as a result of the pandemic – from having to spend more on safely accessing food and getting to and from medical appointments, to paying more for vital care.
Kevin Whitworth who features in the ‘Don’t Leave Disabled People Behind’ campaign video – has lived with brain damage following a fall just over 10 years ago. He has received ESA since 2016, and for the last seven months hasn’t been able to afford food to make a cooked meal. He says: “Money is tight, and I’m living off of cereal. Having an extra £20 would mean that I could eat proper meals again. It’s really unfair that people like me on older legacy benefits aren’t getting the same help those on Universal Credit are getting – we need money as well.”
Despite the DBC writing an open letter to the Chancellor, as well as hundreds of people writing to their own MPs asking for urgent change, the only response from the government has been to say that the uplift would be “too complicated” for its computer system. On top of this, the Social Security Advisory Committee said in June that it is “increasingly untenable for this group of claimants [people on legacy benefits] to be excluded”. The Chancellor has yet to speak publicly on the issue.
DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “We are looking for the Chancellor to announce the extension of this uplift to legacy benefits in the Budget on 25 November. This will give the DWP time to update their IT systems in advance of April 2021. With so many government departments talking about the DDA this month, and the rights of disabled people to parity and equality, it beggars belief that we are being left behind with the excuse that ‘computer says no’.”
For more information go to the Disability Benefit Consortium website.
Disability Minister pledges ‘ambitious policy reforms’
The Minister for Disability Health and Work Justin Tomlinson has stated that the National Disability Strategy and Disability Green Paper “will deliver ambitious policy reforms to improve the lives of disabled people.”
Expressing that he was “hugely excited by this work which represents a real opportunity to deliver a more inclusive society”, the Minister released the statement to mark the 25th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act.
He went on: “The Disability Discrimination Act (and the subsequent Equality Act) has stood the test of time and provides a strong and straightforward legal framework that protects disabled people from unfair treatment. This vital protection supports disabled people in all aspects of their daily lives, whether they’re at school, work or accessing services and has had a life-changing impact for many. This has focused minds and crucially has helped us support record numbers of disabled people into work, with growing confidence in businesses of all sizes to make what are often just small changes to unlock the potential of a diverse workforce.
“Both the National Strategy and the Green Paper will be extensively consulted on in the coming months and shaped by disabled people, disability forums and disability stakeholders, ensuring that real lived experience is at the very heart of our plans.”
Read his written House of Commons statement in full.
APPG for disability
The next APPG on Disability features Justin Tomlinson MP, Minister for Disabled People;
Vicky Foxcroft MP, Shadow Minister for Disabled People; Dame Cheryl Gillan, Chair of the APPG for Autism; Rebecca Hilsenrath, CEO of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and a Special Guest speaker from the UN Committee on Rights of Disabled Persons. The meeting will be held at 3pm on Tuesday 24 November on Zoom.
Register to attend.
Disabled Royal Mail worker wins £14k discrimination pay out
Royal Mail has been ordered to pay £14,000 compensation to a disabled worker who had to endure harassment at a major sorting depot.
Nabil Mehdinejad has ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxia and worked as a delivery driver at Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant sorting office in London. A senior manager described him as a “good worker, very good”.
A manager at the depot, Muhammed Hafeez, repeatedly referred to him as being “dodgy”.
Mehdinejad had two witnesses, had had adaptations made at his workplace in relation to his disabilities, and had his complaint to Royal Mail upheld by an independent case worker. Despite this, Royal Mail opposed the claim for disability harassment and claimed it was not aware of Mehdinejad’s disability.
An employment tribunal upheld the claim for disability harassment, found that Royal Mail had been aware of Mehdinejad’s disability, and that Hafeez had a negative perception of Mehdinejad because of his disability.
DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “It is a scandal that an organisation as large as Royal Mail has failed to embed best practice when it comes to treating disabled people with respect and equality twenty five years after the Disability Discrimination Act came into force.
“Disabled people have to endure a double whammy of distress in such circumstances – humiliation, discrimination and harassment, and then the stress of taking it through the courts to prove it has happened.
“Employers need to interrogate their guidance and practices and ensure that their walk matches their talk of commitment to equality and an end to toxic bullying cultures. Far too often, the two do not match up.”
Support for shielders from supermarkets
In the first week of November, we asked Aldi, Asda, Iceland, Lidl, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Ocado, Tesco and Waitrose about what help they were offering for shielders. Sainsbury’s didn’t get back to us.
Everyone else’s replies can be found on our website.