|Covid causing huge rise in Disability
At least 122,000 NHS staff have Long Covid according to new Office for National Statistics data that also shows that 1.1 million people in the UK are affected by the condition.
Patient care within the NHS is being affected because many of the effects of Long Covid on workers who can subsequently only work part-time, are too ill to work, or need time off for pain, exhaustion or brain fog.
114,000 teachers also have Long Covid, raising fears of stretched Special Educational Needs and Disability support.
And the ONS has found that around 30,000 social care workers have Long Covid, which could affect staffing levels for care homes and at-home care workers.
Further, research from University College London, the Office for National Statistics, and the University of Leicester has found that a third of hospital-admitted Covid patients are readmitted within four months and that one in eight dies, often of associated organ failure. Most often, these are people under the age of 70 and from non-white British backgrounds.
And a report in Lancet Psychiatry shows that one in three people who had severe Covid were subsequently diagnosed with a neurological or psychiatric condition within the next six months.
Dr Sarah Burns and Dr Sue Warren, who founded a Facebook support group for medical professionals with Long Covid, recently told the British Medical Journal that doctors with Long Covid feel “intense feelings of failure and grief for leaving colleagues with increased workloads and not personally contributing to the ‘fight against Covid’… many felt angry … and felt abandoned or even penalised by colleagues… A small but not insignificant number have been asked to leave roles due to prolonged sick leave.”
The Guardian newspaper reported that some doctors with Long Covid say that the NHS has not understood their condition and that support has been ‘patchy’. NHS England has said its new network of specialist Long Covid clinics is treating NHS staff with the condition.
DR UK’s CEO Kamran Mallick said: “As Long Covid continues to take its toll on people, so the ranks of Disabled people are swelling.
“Public discourse prefers to term Long Covid as an illness. Make no mistake: an illness which lasts for a prolonged, life-impacting period is a disability. Long Covid is, at best, a hidden disability, with many symptoms in common with other hidden disabilities such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) and Fibromyalgia, and at worst, life threatening months after diagnosis.
“Not only is Covid causing mass Disability, but the profession which has been hardest hit by the virus, healthcare, is the one most often so critically needed by Disabled people.
“For too long Government has ignored Disabled people’s voices. It has not been ignoring Covid. As part of that, Government needs to recognise what it means that Long Covid is part of the UK’s mix of Disabilities, and use its understanding of how it is affecting lives and livelihoods to gain a deeper understanding of how Disabled people live across the board. Now is the time for deep listening, deep learning, deep research, and action.”
Care home residents treated like ‘different species’
Campaigners have started legal action over government guidance which was preventing care home residents from leaving their care homes, and which still insists that residents need to isolate for a fortnight after visits where they go beyond their care home boundaries.
Almost all care home residents have had at least one vaccine dose, and care homes have been cautiously allowing changes to visiting, including two named visitors now being allowed to visit from this week.
Government guidance from March said that trips to see family or friends “should only be considered” for under-65s while national Covid restrictions apply because they increase the risk of bringing Covid into a home.
New guidance was released on Wednesday 7 April allowing visits out of care homes from 12 April, but a two week quarantine period is still required. The new guidance states that: “a resident making a visit out of the care home should isolate for 14 days on their return (the day of return is day zero). This is to ensure that – in the event they have unknowingly become infected while out of the home – they minimise the chances of passing that infection on to other residents and staff.”
A legal letter sent to the Department of Health and Social Care by John’s Campaign says the decision whether someone can go on a visit outside a care home should be based on individual risk assessments and says that without this, decision on visits contravene equality and human rights legislation.
Campaign Co-founder Julia Jones told the BBC: “The 440,000 people living in care homes include some who moved in through their own volition, with full mental capacity, never guessing that this simple freedom, enjoyed by everyone else in the population, apart from prisoners, could so easily be denied them.
“Those who cannot make their own choices have relatives and friends who would normally be glad to take responsibility but have been excluded [these] choices.”
She said that people in care homes were being discriminated against and had been “comprehensively ignored”.
“The Department of Health, and particularly Public Health England, looks at care home residents as if they are a different species,” she said.
Read more from the BBC here.
MPs call for greater food security
MPs are calling on the government to consult on a ‘national right to food’ and to appoint a Minister for food security.
The calls come in a report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA), which follows on from its Coronavirus and food supply report last summer.
Today’s report said a new minister should be appointed to work across departments to ensure “that everyone and especially the most vulnerable”, has access to enough “affordable nutritious food”.
It also says that the Government must consult on a legal “right to food” in its White Paper responding to the National Food Strategy, due out this summer.
One in ten households experienced food poverty in the past two lockdowns.
The report also tells supermarkets to “recognise their responsibility” to assist shielders. EFRA guidance encouraged scrapping delivery charges and minimum online spends for shielders, as well as ensuring that ‘Covid secure’ measures in-store do not exclude Disabled people.
DR UK CEO Kamran Mallick said: “We know that Disabled people, including clinically extremely vulnerable people, had a hell of a time accessing food during lockdowns. Many Disabled people who were official shielders or felt they needed to shield for their safety on low incomes were forced to shop beyond their means because of the postcode lottery approach to allocating priority home delivery slots from local supermarkets. Others received food boxes with no dietary requirements taken into consideration, which were often made up of less nutritious long-life foodstuffs. It is astonishing that Government should even need asking to assure the right to food for all people. Shelter, warmth, food and water should surely be among the most fundamental of assured human rights.”
DR UK joins calls for better housing laws
UK housing laws must be strengthened to ensure that new builds are suitable for Disabled people. The latest calls come in a letter to The Daily Telegraph from charity chiefs, including DR UK CEO Kamran Mallick, as well as architects.
The letter calls on Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick to toughen up regulations on accessibility standards for new homes.
At the moment, new build houses must fulfil four accessibility criteria: they must have level access to a main entrance, doorways and circulation spaces must be wide enough, there must be a toilet at entrance level, and there must be a flush threshold offering easy entry to the property.
70% of new builds won’t have to meet accessible standards. A fifth of the population is Disabled.
The letter reads:
We desperately need to reverse the trend of building homes that are unfit for older and disabled people to live in.
Our country’s need for accessible homes is urgent and growing all the time.
Habinteg’s new analysis of ‘Local Plans’ reveals that 70% of all new homes built in England over the next 10 years aren’t required to meet any ‘accessible’ housing standard. So, just one accessible home will be built for every 77 people. This is despite the fact that we have an ageing population and already one in five of us is disabled.
The government is currently considering raising accessibility standards for new homes. The time is right to change regulations, so we get the homes we so urgently need now and in the future. As it stands, 91% of existing homes do not provide even the most basic features that make a house ‘visitable’, never mind accessible or adaptable. These changes are widely supported across the housing, charitable and disability sectors, as well as by home builders and local government. We urge the Housing Minister to strengthen the mandatory accessibility standards without delay.
Housing Made for Everyone (HoME) Coalition:
Anna Dixon, Chief Executive of Centre for Ageing Better
Bryonie Shaw, Interim Chief Executive of Habinteg Housing
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK
Sue Adams, Chief Executive of Care & Repair England
Gavin Smart, Chief Executive of Chartered Institute of Housing
Kamran Mallick, Chief Executive of Disability Rights UK
Jeremy Porteus, Chief Executive of Housing Learning & Improvement Network
Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of National Housing Federation
Alan M Jones, President of Royal Institute of British Architects
Fiona Howie, Chief Executive of Town and Country Planning Association
Robert Jenrick said the housing consultation would look at “bold options to ensure more new homes are built to higher accessibility standards and with the features needed to give people the dignity and security they deserve in their homes”.
Number of DWP disability employment advisers falls by a third during the pandemic
The DWP is facing questions over its commitment to disability equality after new figures revealed the number of Disability Employment Advisers (DEAs) fell sharply during the pandemic, while the number of mainstream work coaches soared.
The figures were finally released – weeks late – by the DWP, in response to a freedom of information request by the Disability News Service (DNS).
They show that at the start of 2021 there were just 447 full time equivalent DEAs in post across the DWP, compared with 661 on 1 February 2020.
But over the same period, the number of Work Coaches across the DWP rose from 12,555 full time equivalent on 1 February 2020 to more than 19,000 at the start of this year, as part of Ministers’ pledge to recruit 13,500 new Work Coaches to deal with the pandemic unemployment crisis.
This means that the number of DEAs fell by 32% during the pandemic while the number of work coaches was rising by 51%.
According to a parliamentary briefing, DEAs are trained to “help Disabled people to find suitable jobs, and work alongside work coaches to provide additional professional expertise”.
In March last year, the Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson, stressed the importance of the DEA role, suggesting to MPs that they would play a key part in achieving the government’s target of seeing one million more Disabled people in work between 2017 and 2027.
Read more here.
A million Disabled Londoners should be spared ULEZ charges – campaign
Campaigners are demanding that all people who use vehicles for the benefit of Disabled people are made exempt from charges for London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) charges.
The ULEZ scheme charges the drivers of older, more polluting cars and is due to be extended into new areas of London including Kensington and Chelsea this October.
DR UK Ambassador Kush Kanodia says that London’s 1.2m Disabled residents and their carers should be exempt. Highlighting the cost of living for Disabled people, he told My London: “we are just going to have more inequality and more deprivation, we are going to have more people suffering unnecessarily. With ULEZ we’re probably talking about the impact of this on a million people in London. The scale of this is huge.”
Many Disabled Londoners have Blue Badges but do not own a car and will use their badges when getting lifts from carers and friends. Blue Badges often give exemptions from parking charges. But ULEZ rules mean that only cars registered to Disabled people will be exempt. People taking them shopping or giving them a lift or caring, would have to pay a charge if their vehicle doesn’t comply with the ULEZ rules designed to cut pollution.
“These are critical barriers to health and social carers. They may be travelling from outside London and may not have a car that’s ULEZ compliant due to lower salaries and will have to pay a £12.50 charge for the journey.
“The Government has an ambition for an extra one million disabled people to be in employment by 2027. We are supposed to be full participants in our society. We need to take away these barriers. It is completely unacceptable to put new barriers in place.”
TfL’s Head of Transport Strategy and Planning, Christina Calderato said: “We are supporting people to adapt to the ULEZ by giving those with a disabled tax class vehicle until 2025 to bring them up to the cleaner standards.
“Disabled people can also receive £2,000 to scrap their older, more polluting cars through the ULEZ Car and Motorcycle Scrappage Scheme and eligible NHS patients that need to use a vehicle to access a hospital appointment can be reimbursed for the charge. It is vital that we take bold action to improve the capital’s air quality and protect all Londoners. High levels of traffic and pollution disproportionally affect the most vulnerable. This will reduce harmful nitrogen dioxide by 30 per cent across the whole city.”
Grenfell: expert witness Colin Todd claims it was “unrealistic” – to make any – “special arrangements” for vulnerable residents. Todd’s son runs Council’s fire safety department
Lawyers acting on behalf of the families who died in the Grenfell Tower fire have called it “a landmark act of discrimination against disabled and vulnerable people.” In oral evidence submitted to the Inquiry in mid-March, they said: “We want to particularly draw your attention to the significance of the organisational and cultural context, and to consider that part of the disaster which was the product of imbalance of power and disregard of the vulnerable. The Inquiry has reached the point where the causal role of these inequalities cannot be ignored consistently with its Terms of Reference.”
Their evidence goes on: “The law does not appear to be in significant dispute: these were special categories of at-risk-relevant-persons to be identified, planned and provided for by the responsible persons under the Fire Service Order 2005. The discharge of those fire safety functions had to be informed both by the public sector equality duty in section 149 of the Equality Act and the internationally and domestically protected human rights to life and non-discrimination. None of this happened.
“Colin Todd is an expert witness in this Inquiry but his role in formulating and perpetuating the offending advice in the Guide must itself be the subject of scrutiny. That advice states that there is “usually” nothing to be done for vulnerable residents in High Rise buildings operating a stay put policy because it is -“unrealistic” – to make any – “special arrangements” for them.
“No serious legal or moral defence of the wholesale denial of fire safety to a class of residents especially in need of protection is offered in the Guide or to this Inquiry. Instead, first, a transparently false dichotomy between maintenance of a stay put strategy and simultaneous evacuation is floated to imply – outrageously – that the status quo was in fact favourable to vulnerable persons. As is plain to see, the real issue is denial of planning and provision for evacuation when it is no longer safe to stay put. Next it is suggested that evacuation should – all being well with compartmentation – rarely be required. This is simply not an acceptable answer to the situation when all is not well, which even the LGA Guide contemplates. This is why the Fire Safety Order so clearly imposes non-delegable duties requiring planning and provision for ALL residents not just those without additional needs. As it happens, the three other Inquiry experts Dr Lane, Professor Galea and Professor Torero strongly disagree with Mr Todd regarding the limited risk of compartmentation breach in high rise buildings as a class.”
Expert witness Colin Todd’s son Keith Todd, works as Director of fire safety for the Tower’s owner, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC).
Almost half of Grenfell fire deaths were those of Disabled people and children.
Now is the time report released
The Centre for Social Justice’s Disability Commission’s detailed submission to the National Strategy for Disabled People consultation, Now is the Time, has been released.
The report echoes much of the sentiment DR UK heard from Disabled people across the UK in our own We Belong submission.
DR UK CEO Kamran Mallick said: “The evidence on the quality of Disabled people’s lives, our life outcomes, and the barriers stopping us from truly thriving is clear. Disabled people have spoken loudly and clearly on this consultation. Government must listen, and be led by those with lived experience. The Strategy must be 100% informed by the evidence gathered and submitted by Disabled people, not dreamed up by well-intentioned Mandarins in Whitehall. We are waiting for a Strategy which truly, radically, changes the national playing field for all Disabled people.”