Bereaved families demand immediate Covid-19 inquiry
In a letter organised by Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, some of the UK’s biggest charities and traes unions have joined forces with families impacted by deaths from Covid-19 to write to the Prime Minister demanding an immediate statutory public inquiry into the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Signatories to the letter, including DR UK, the British Medical Association, TUC, Unite, GMB, Amnesty International, UK Black Pride, the Race Equality Foundation argue that the pandemic inquiry must begin with a ‘rapid review phase’, as took place at the beginning of the Taylor Inquiry following the Hillsborough disaster, so that initial findings can be reported quickly.
The letter’s signatories are demanding an urgent inquiry in order for the Government to minimise further loss of life. They say the inquiry should address:
- The effectiveness of the UK’s test and trace programme.
- How the Government has made and communicated key decisions and risk levels.
- The impact of Covid-19 on Black and minority ethnic communities.
- How the NHS is responding to the crisis, including: the effectiveness of NHS 111, the threat of Covid-19 transmission in care homes and hospitals, and the ability of the NHS to carry out other urgent treatments.
Jo Goodman, Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice co-Founder, said: “We have been making the case for an urgent inquiry and rapid review since June. If the Prime Minister met with us as we asked and listened to what we had to say then, we may not be in the situation we are now.
“It is clear a Covid-19 inquiry cannot be delayed any longer. It must be a statutory public inquiry and it must have a rapid review first stage like the Taylor Review after the Hillsborough Disaster. No more people have to die. It’s time to learn lessons and save lives.”
Fazilet Hadi, Disability Rights UK Head of Policy said: “59% of those who died from Covid-19 were Disabled people. It was known at the outset of the crisis that some Disabled people would be at great risk, yet the measures taken were not enough to protect us. We support calls for a judge-led Rapid Review, to learn lessons and prevent future deaths.”
DR UK: urgent investigation into all current do not resuscitate orders needed after release of CQC report
Unforeseen pressures on care homes may have led to the decision to use do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation (DNACPR) (do not resuscitate) orders without patient consent at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic.
This is one of the main early findings from the CQC’s interim report from the review of DNACPR it is currently undertaking.
The CQC noted that guidance intended to help clinicians assess frailty as part of a wider, holistic assessment around the appropriateness of critical care may have been interpreted as the sole basis for clinical decisions in some instances.
In this case, the misinterpretation was quickly acknowledged, and revised guidance was issued five days later to make it clear that this was not an appropriate use of the tool.
DR UK Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “A root and branch investigation of every DNACPR order currently in place is needed to ensure that there is not a single case of an unrequested DNACPR order left in place from the Spring.
“The blanket application of these orders at the start of the pandemic felt akin to genocide by stealth to disabled people.
“That we could be assessed as being ‘too frail’ to make our own decisions about whether we live or die shows how there is fundamentally a systemic lack of respect and consideration to view us as equal to non-disabled people.
“It is inconceivable that such orders would be placed, en masse, on the medical records of non-disabled people, and yet there we were.
“We welcome the CQC’s efforts to date in investigating this horrific, sorry subject.”
Read more on our website.
If you have had a DNACPR or had one reviewed since the start of the pandemic in March, the CQC would like to hear your experiences.
Take the survey.
Visits to care homes allowed under new guidance
Visits to care homes are now allowed again providing that visitors can produce a negative rapid Covid test in advance of the visit.
Visits to family homes and parks may also now be possible for some care home residents under new government guidance. The changes apply to care home residents in all tiers.
DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “It has taken far too long to get to this stage, with significant impacts on care home residents’ mental health, as well as the deteriorating impacts on those with dementia. We welcome this news and hope for better outcomes for care home residents going forward.”
Read more on our website.
More than half of the UK population living in destitution are in long term ill health or are disabled people: new JRF research
A new Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) research study highlights that more than half of the population (54%) living in destitution was disabled, with COVID-19-associated delays in the processing of disability-related benefits claims and appeals having a detrimental effect on those involved.
The JRF says that ‘destitution’ “denotes the circumstances facing people Who cannot afford to buy the absolute essentials that we all need to eat, stay warm and dry, and keep clean.”
Ken Butler DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser said: “That over half of those facing destitution are disabled, including long term ill health conditions, is both shocking and shameful. Even before the Covid-19 crisis, benefit cuts and austerity hit disabled people the hardest. This new JRF report reinforces that as a minimum the £20 week UC uplift should not just be kept but extended now to all those receiving legacy benefits such a ESA.”
Read more on our website.
Disabled people’s pensions under 10% of UK average
Disabled people’s pensions pots total on average just nine per cent of the UK average, according to research by the Pension Policy Institute and NOW: Pensions (a workplace pensions provider).
The average UK pension is £80,690. Only 50% of disabled people are saving into a private pension. Disabled people’s private pensions average just £7,450.
Fazilet Hadi, Disability Rights UK’s Head of Policy said: “This research is yet more evidence that far too many disabled people are unemployed, in low paid jobs and living in poverty. Even though the finding that disabled people only have 9% of the average amount of private pension wealth is not surprising, it is still deeply shocking. It shows that not only will disabled people of working age be poor but they will continue to be poor in older age.
“The government needs to take steps in its forthcoming Disability Strategy to increase employment rates, introduce mandatory disability pay gap monitoring and review the benefits system to truly meet the additional costs of disability.”
Read the full report.
Roy Curtis: autistic man killed himself six days after latest ‘fitness for work’ demand
An inquest has heard that a disabled man took his own life six days after being told to attend a ‘fitness for work’ assessment, despite the DWP being repeatedly warned its actions had made him suicidal, Disability News Service (DNS) reports.
The death of 27-year-old Roy Curtis, who died on or about 18 November 2018, is just the latest over the last decade to expose DWP’s failure to protect disabled benefit claimants from harm.
The DWP actions that contributed to his suicide particularly mirror those that led to the death of Errol Graham, who starved to death earlier the same year after his benefits had been removed.
DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser Ken Butler said: “The tragic suicide of Roy Curtis further highlights the need for radical reform of the work capability assessment and the need for the end of the benefit sanctions regime.
“Disabled people should not fear destitution by refusing to enter work that they know they are not physically or mentally capable of undertaking.
“The suicide of Mr Curtis also brings to mind the shameful comments of the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions who recently held that the DWP has no legal duty to safeguard the wellbeing of vulnerable claimants.
“Even if that is correct, surely the best means of protecting vulnerable people is to adopt safeguarding measures on the basis that it does have such a legal duty.”
Read more on our website.
6% of public body appointees are non-disabled – Holmes Report update
Just under 6% of appointees to public bodies self-report having a disability, according to a progress report published by Lord Holmes two years after his Review for the Cabinet Office into opening up public appointments to disabled people.
The progress report considers how far the recommendations from the 2018 review have been incorporated into the operation of the public appointments process and what impact this has had on the number of disabled people applying to become, and becoming, public appointees.
DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “Given that disabled people make up a fifth of the UK’s population, it is clear that so much still needs to be done to ensure that public bodies effectively represent the public itself.
“There are far too many barriers to disabled people who wish to take up public appointments such as…
“The government needs to recognise that a quarter of a century on from the Disability Discrimination Act becoming law, little has changed for those from our community with ambitions to serve their fellow citizens.”
Read the Progress Report.
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You can read a related blog by Lord Chris Holmes.
Disabled people from Gypsy Roma Traveller communities need better services, study warns
Disabled people from the Gypsy Roma Traveller (GRT) community need statutory and voluntary sector organisations to do more to ensure their needs are met, according to a new study from the DRILL project.
The report, ‘Including the Missing Voices of Disabled People in the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Community’ concludes that disabled people from the community are put off from accessing health and social care services because of past experience of discrimination in mainstream society, putting pressure on family members and other community members to plug the gap.
Peter Unwin, principal lecturer of social work at the University of Worcester and co-author of the report said: “There’s an estimated 300,000 people from Gypsy Roma Traveller communities living in the UK. Disabled members of those communities can face double discrimination because of both their family background and their impairment or long term health conditions.”
Disability Rights UK CEO Kamran Mallick said: “The research highlights the extent of discrimination disabled people from GRT communities face. Organisations need to do more to ensure that disabled travellers have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. DR UK is following up the research with traveller organisations to ensure that the voice of disabled travellers is heard by both DPOs and those in power whose decisions impact their lives.”
DR UK manages the DRILL project in England.
£68m boost for Disabled Facilities Grant funding
An extra £68 million to help adapt homes for people with disabilities in England
* More than 280,000 home adaptions provided through the Disabled Facilities Grant
* Details of £4 billion Better Care Fund confirmed to better integrate health and social care
An extra £68 million has been pledged by the Government to the Disabled Facilities Grant for 2021 to fund adaptations to disabled people’s homes to allow for greater independent living.
The funding, which is managed by local government, can be used towards the costs of home adaptations such as stairlifts, level access showers, wet rooms, winches, grab rails and ramps.
This funding is in addition to the £505 million paid to councils in May 2020, increasing the overall government investment in the Disabled Facilities Grant to £573 million this year.
With Spending Review 2020 investment of £573 million in the Disabled Facilities Grant for 2021 to 2022, government has now confirmed over £4 billion funding for the grant since 2010.
The government has said the funding is part of its plans to better integrate health and social care services. Details of the £4 billion Better Care Fund have also confirmed, setting out how councils may use this funding to deliver effective care and support for people in their communities.
Minister for Care, Helen Whately said: “This grant will help hundreds of thousands of disabled people across England to live more independently in their own homes and improve their quality of life.
“I know this year has been incredibly difficult for disabled people in particular… The Disabled Facilities Grant is a really important part of our ambition to reduce health inequalities and support more people to live healthy, independent lives for as long as possible.”
The Disabled Facilities Grant forms part of the Better Care Fund, a fund which brings together local government and health partners to jointly plan and pool budgets to support integrated care.
DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “The additional funding is of course very welcome. This year has really shown us how important are homes are to us, yet for many disabled people, they aren’t a place in which we can flourish. The government needs to take steps to increase the accessibility of all types of housing in its forthcoming Disability Strategy.”
Universal Credit fails people in vulnerable situations – Z2K report
New comprehensive research by anti-poverty charity Z2K reveals the devastating impact that Universal Credit (UC) is having on some of those in the most vulnerable situations.
Over two million people currently on legacy benefits are at risk of being unwittingly switched onto UC at any time as a result of natural migration.
Many of these people will lose out financially and face harm as a result of the UC system’s failings. This is of particular importance for the 1.5 million disabled people in the ESA Support Group who would suffer if pushed onto Universal Credit as it stands.
The new report demonstrates, with the removal of disability premiums in UC, many people pushed onto UC from legacy benefits find themselves significantly worse off.
But it also stresses that it is not just the inadequate financial support that is detrimental, but also the design of the system itself, which means UC fails to support people in more complex and vulnerable situations.
The report points to the DWP’s own research which shows that UC is not working for one in five people.
DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser Ken Butler said: “Z2K has produced an excellent, timely report on the damage Universal Credit has caused and the urgent need for its widespread reform. The report is bolstered by providing in-depth interviews with 15 of its clients who share their experiences of UC and that highlight again and again its systemic flaws.
“DR UK supports its many recommendations and will work with Z2K and other colleagues in the Disability Benefits Consortium to make them a reality.”
Read more on our website.
UC uplift must be kept and extended to legacy benefits: new JRF briefing
A new briefing from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) details the financial impact of Covid-19 on disabled people and their carers.
In turn, it makes the case as to why the £20 week UC lifeline must not end in April 2021, and why throw this same lifeline must be thrown to people on ‘legacy’ benefits (ESA, JSA and income support).
The JRF highlight research from Scope from before the pandemic that suggested that, on average, disabled people face extra costs of £583 per month to sustain the same quality of life as a non-disabled person (even after disability benefits designed to meet those extra costs have been received).
In addition, one in five disabled adults face extra costs of over £1,000 per month. Examples of extra costs include specialist home or vehicle adaptations; therapies; equipment; sensory equipment or adapted toys for children; increased utility bills; taxis and higher insurance costs.
The new briefing shows why it’s essential to make this same uplift to people who are on legacy benefits, most of whom are disabled, sick or carers.
Read more on our website.