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Covid Inquiry will consider impact of pandemic on Disabled people

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Disabled People’s Organisations including Disability Positive have welcomed the changes to the Terms of Reference to the Covid Inquiry, which have been confirmed by the Prime Minister.

The Inquiry will now specifically review the impact of the pandemic on groups covered by the Equality Act including on people with lived experience of disability or a long term health condition.

This followed comments on the draft terms of reference earlier this year by Disability Positive along with 5 other organisations; Disability Rights UK, Inclusion London, Disability North, Disability Peterborough and WinVisible.

We asked that disabled people, who made up 60% of deaths from Covid and who experienced much hardship and discrimination during the pandemic, are not “airbrushed from history” and that current government policy be looked at urgently.

The Inquiry published draft Terms of Reference (ToR) for the Covid Public Inquiry in March 2022 setting out the issues it intended to address. 

The six organisations responded to the consultation in April this year and raised:

  • Concern that the ToR made no specific reference to Disabled people.
  • Criticism of policy decisions where poor outcomes for disabled people could have been predicted, but those decisions were taken anyway.
  • That warnings about the impact on Disabled people were communicated to government at the time, but despite this, little meaningful change was implemented. 
  • That the Inquiry should look in to their communications with government during the pandemic, and why clear, evidence-based advice and issues highlighted were often completely disregarded.

Following the consultation, the Inquiry committed to key changes to the ToR, including:

  • To examine the impact on those receiving care outside of non-residential settings;
  • To emphasise that it will examine the impact on different categories of people, including, but not limited to those with protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010.

The final terms of reference have now been confirmed by the Prime Minister.

Disability Positive has welcomed these changes, and wants the Inquiry to now investigate the appalling and long-lasting impact on Disabled people of the pandemic, including those Disabled people who experience multiple disadvantages due to additional discrimination such as on the basis of gender or race.

We are, however, still concerned that the Inquiry doesn’t intend to examine the Government’s current policy response to COVID, given its continuing impact on Disabled people.  

Disability Positive, along with the other 5 organisations, will continue to work to make sure that that the inquiry examines the concerns of people with lived experience of disability or a long term health condition, and give issues sufficient time and priority, and that it hears from Disabled people directly.

Dr Miro Griffiths, one of Disability Positive’s Trustees, who is a Disabled person and employs Personal Assistants (PAs) said:

“… I was in a state of constant confusion and anxiety, on whether if it was safe for me or for my PAs to come to work, whether or not I qualified as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’, how to access a supply of PPE, how to remain supported by my personal healthcare team if I needed to go to hospital, and whether it was possible to use the furlough scheme or employ emergency cover via family members who were shielding in the same household.”

“The impact on me continues, with the lifting of restrictions. As someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable to Covid, when I did, inevitably, contract the illness earlier this year, it took over 6 days before I was given a consultation about accessing anti-viral medication. This is despite the importance of this being given at an early stage in the virus’ onset and government guidelines that stated I would access a consultation within 24 hours of a positive test result.”

“This disregard for my specific needs in relation to Covid serves to highlight the fact that while many people consider the pandemic to be over, it still has a huge ongoing impact for Disabled people, especially those of us who are clinically extremely vulnerable.”

We will continue working hard to give our members a voice with government on issues like this and many others. Find out more about our Policy Influencing – click here to our Policy Influencing page.

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