Coronavirus: Supermarkets face mass legal action over ‘discrimination’

Supermarkets are facing mass legal action from disabled people left anxious and distressed because they are unable to buy food and other groceries during the coronavirus crisis.

At least 30 disabled people have instructed solicitors to begin legal action against various supermarkets for discriminating against them under the Equality Act by failing to make the reasonable adjustments needed for them to shop safely.

Many of them have found it impossible to order home deliveries online, because they are not in the small proportion of disabled people seen by the government as being “extremely clinically vulnerable”.

Some of those taking legal action are unable to shop safely in supermarkets because of the pandemic, while others are unable to travel to supermarkets for impairment-related reasons.

Some of the claimants could shop safely in-store if their local supermarket was willing to make reasonable adjustments for them, but are prevented from doing so, for example, by having to queue to enter the store – with no seats while they are waiting – or not being allowed to bring a companion with them to help them shop.

They also accuse the supermarkets of ignoring their written complaints.

Solicitors Fry Law, who are acting for the group, are still seeking other disabled people who have had problems with supermarkets since the COVID-19 pandemic began*.

Fry Law is taking the cases on a no-win no-fee basis, but it will not take any success fees – usually 25 per cent of the pay-out – if its clients secure any damages.

The supermarket chain that has drawn most complaints so far about breaches of the Equality Act is Sainsbury’s.

One of the claimants, who is autistic and a wheelchair-user, has described how the failure to secure regular deliveries from Sainsbury’s has been a “huge source of anxiety”, despite being an online customer for 10 years.

She says her email complaint to the supermarket had been ignored.

Although she is seen as being “at risk”, because of her health conditions, she is not one of the 1.5 million people in England on the government’s list of those most at risk from the virus and so is not seen as a priority for home deliveries, even though she receives the enhanced rates of personal independence payment for both daily living and mobility.

One night, she told Fry Law, she had to check the website multiple times between midnight and 5.30am to try to secure an available slot for a food delivery, before one eventually came up at 8.30am.

She said it had been “very distressing” to have such a disruption to her routine deliveries, and not to be able to order the food she usually eats, which has affected her strict menu planning and means “every day is a panic of what can I cook to eat”.

If she shopped in person, it would mean multiple risky trips to the supermarket because she would be unable to buy a week’s worth of groceries at a time, and would be unable to ask for help from staff and members of the public because of the need for social distancing.

A second disabled claimant, who has health conditions that put her at increased risk from the virus, and is a wheelchair-user, described how she had found the process of trying to secure online deliveries from Sainsbury’s “chaotic and stressful”.

She is unable to visit the supermarket and although she managed to register as one of those most at risk with Sainsbury’s, she said she had not found any delivery slots available, nearly two weeks later.

She found a “click and collect” slot by chance and has had to ask a volunteer to collect it for her.

She told Fry Law: “Both government policy and supermarket policy is leaving lots of us with no way to get food.

“I couldn’t get food before so why do they think I can suddenly get it now?

“If you are able to hold them accountable, that would be fantastic. We need to come out of this in a stronger position, not with our rights for equality eroded.”

Another of the disabled claimants, who is blind, described in his letter of claim to one of the supermarkets – not Sainsbury’s – how he had been forced to register with a local foodbank because of the difficulty of securing a home delivery, which he had found “degrading and stressful”.

He has managed to book only two deliveries in the last two months.

Chris Fry, founder of Fry Law, said some of the disabled people who were taking legal action were “living hand to mouth” and having to use foodbanks because it was impossible to obtain regular supplies of groceries.

He said: “We don’t want to be seen to be making things worse, but we can’t just sit back and let disabled people be ignored by the supermarkets.”

Fry said there were “fairly easy fixes” the supermarkets could use to make their services more accessible.

He said: “The supermarkets are making a substantial return at the moment, and as far as I am concerned the fix with this is fairly inexpensive.

“It’s really about re-allocating resources and changing websites to improve accessibility and finding ways to work with disabled people’s organisations, to work out what is necessary instead of trying to do it themselves.”

He said that one of the key concerns was the failure of the big retailers to talk to disabled customers and disabled people’s organisations about their concerns.

Fry said he hoped the supermarkets would resolve the legal action before Fry Law had to begin litigation which could end in court.

He said: “People are coming to us because they have been told that their complaint emails are being ignored as a matter of policy.

“They are clearly not disturbed by bad PR. Maybe they will be disturbed if they find themselves receiving hundreds of letters from lawyers.”

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said it could not comment on ongoing legal cases.

But Andrew Opie, BRC’s director of food and sustainability, said: “While most supermarkets are ramping up their online delivery operations, these account for only about eight per cent of all food sales.

“It would be impossible to deliver to all of the 11-plus million people classified as long term ill, impaired or disabled in the UK.

“Supermarkets are focused on the most vulnerable, using lists provided by the government, and we urge everyone to do what they can to support elderly, vulnerable or disabled neighbours in getting the essentials they need from stores.”

He added: “Retailers are working with government to identify and support elderly, vulnerable and disabled customers.

“While they are increasing capacity to meet the large surge in demand and prioritising delivery to these groups where possible, many are also encouraging those who are able to shop in-store to do so.

“It is important to support one another during this pandemic and everyone should consider whether there are vulnerable neighbours they can support by shopping on their behalf.

“These measures will help alleviate the pressure on delivery services and ensure that slots are available for those with the greatest need.”

A spokesperson for Sainsbury’s also said he could not comment on the legal case.

But he said Sainsbury’s was “committed to serving the nation’s most vulnerable people” and had been the first supermarket to prioritise all its delivery slots for “elderly and vulnerable customers”.

He said: “Initially we used our own existing data for elderly and vulnerable customers and helped others find delivery slots through our Careline team; now the government is helping supermarkets to identify the most vulnerable people.

“We have significantly increased our home delivery service. Four weeks ago, we had 370,000 online grocery slots available and we have now increased this to 600,000 across home delivery and click and collect.”

He also said that Sainsbury’s allowed personal assistants or carers to accompany “elderly or vulnerable customers” on their shopping trips, even though stores generally only allow one adult per family “to help adhere to the government guidance on social distancing”.

He added: “In addition to this, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, all our supermarkets are dedicating 8am to 9am to prioritise store access to elderly customers, disabled customers and their carers.”

*To request that your case is added to the legal action, complete and submit this form

**Links to sources of information and support during the coronavirus pandemic include the following:

Real

Inclusion London

Disability Rights UK

The Department of Health and Social Care

National Survivor User Network

Spinal Injuries Association

COVID Mutual Aid UK

Disability North

Disability Wales

Citizens Advice

16 April 2020

 

Coronavirus: Legal action seeks clarity on disabled people’s right to treatment

Four disabled campaigners are taking legal action to force the government to make it clear that they will have the same right to life-sustaining treatment as non-disabled people if they contract coronavirus.

Their lawyers have written to health and social care secretary Matt Hancock and NHS England to challenge their failure to publish guidance for doctors on how to decide who receives life-saving treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic, if demand outstrips supply.

They fear that, if they become ill with the virus, they and other disabled people will be viewed as less likely to benefit from such treatment than non-disabled people.

Their action was inspired by an open letter, supported so far by more than 2,000 disabled people and allies, which warned that disabled people’s right to treatment in the NHS was not always being upheld during the pandemic.

Their lawyers, the public law and human rights experts Rook Irwin Sweeney, say the failure to produce guidance on how decisions will be made is discriminatory and a breach of their clients’ human rights.

The four disabled campaigners say they fear that value judgments will be made during the pandemic about their quality of life, which will see them pushed to the back of the queue for urgent treatment.

Doug Paulley, one of the four, said it was an “extremely worrying” time for him and other disabled people because they “just don’t know how doctors are going to prioritise life-saving treatment for coronavirus”.

He said: “I feel strongly that I should be given the same chance as anyone else – all I’m asking for is some reassurance that my life will be valued as much as the next person.”

The other three disabled claimants are AB, a 28-year-old writer and policy advisor from London; 17-year-old Francesca Adam-Smith, whose mother is acting for her in the case; and 24-year-old William Runswick-Cole, whose mother is acting for him.

Anne-Marie Irwin, a partner at Rook Irwin Sweeney, who is currently working for free on the case, as are barristers Steve Broach and Ruth Keating, said: “We hope that the government will listen to our clients’ concerns so that a solution can be reached without the need for litigation.”

The Department of Health and Social Care said yesterday (Wednesday) that it could not comment on pending or potential legal action, while NHS England had not commented by noon today.

The legal action came after the Financial Times published the latest in a series of official documents that have fuelled concerns among disabled people that they would not be treated equally if they became ill with COVID-19.

This document, which includes NHS branding, combines age, “frailty” and the presence of certain other health conditions to produce a total score that is used as a guide to decide whether a patient should be treated in an intensive care unit (ICU).

The “COVID-19 decision support tool” suggests, for example, that patients completely dependent on others for their personal care – illustrated with the image of a wheelchair-user – should not qualify for ICU-based treatment if they are aged over 60.

The FT article suggests that the tool has been circulated to at least some doctors and that it was developed for use within the NHS, although it also suggests that NHS England has claimed it is not an approved document.

Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson, the crossbench disabled peer, one of those who supported this month’s open letter on disabled people’s right to treatment, said the coronavirus crisis had again raised concerns about disabled people being seen as “vulnerable”.

She said: “This is not new, it is what we have all known as individual disabled people, but this crisis has just brought it into the public domain in a way which it hasn’t done before, unless the ugly discussion on assisted dying is in the public domain.

“We are always challenging this view that disabled people do not have the same rights as everyone else.”

Caroline Miles, a member of the grassroots disabled people’s organisation Bristol Reclaiming Independent Living (BRIL) and a wheelchair-user with several long-term health problems, said the legal action was “exceptionally important” in the wake of a series of pieces of ill-thought-out guidance published by health bodies such as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the British Medical Association, which have had to be challenged by disabled people.

She said: “We urgently, desperately, need definitive guidance which is written with and agreed by actual disabled people and their representatives to minimise the need for further challenges to content that should have been blindingly obviously unacceptable from the outset.”

But she said she feared that, even when guidance has been retracted and replaced, some doctors will continue to follow it.

She said: “Disabled people like me will, having heard the bad guidance, make up our minds that we will refuse to even go to hospital if we get ill because it will lead to us being refused treatment, a need to fight for our life when we are too unwell to do so, and almost certain death, simply because of our disability, our labels, our needs.”

She added: “Even if a legal challenge is won, the news of the victory and the reasons why… will never be disseminated as far or as effectively as the message that said ‘just let disabled people die’.

“I’m genuinely terrified of becoming unwell and being told I need to go to hospital. I don’t believe I will go.”

A BRIL spokesperson added: “BRIL support this action.

“Disabled people and elders were already angry and frightened about the use of ‘clinical frailty scales’ and blanket DNR [do not resuscitate] orders.

“But again, in the absence of clear legal guidance from the government, a document has been published that both discriminates against disabled people and discharges responsibility onto individual doctors.

“It is also deeply worrying that no public body has accepted responsibility for producing this ‘decision making tool’.

“It’s unacceptable that it has already been sent to clinicians.

“We are very concerned that, even if this guidance is changed again, the implicit message that disabled people’s lives are not valued will influence decisions about who does, or does not, receive life saving treatment.

“We know disabled people who no longer feel safe to go to hospital.

“However, we feel that responsibility for this lies with central government and the secretary of state; they have repeatedly failed to consider the human rights of patients, or to support frontline NHS staff.”

Disability Rights UK said that the clinical frailty scale – which plays a significant part in the decision support tool and was also used in the controversial guidance published by NICE – should be “formally withdrawn by NHS England” as it “adds nothing to patient/doctor discussions, and if followed could lead to discriminatory assumptions being made on the grounds of disability and age”.

NHS England had not responded to requests for a comment on the decision support tool by noon today (Thursday).

*Links to sources of information and support during the coronavirus pandemic include the following:

Real

Inclusion London

Disability Rights UK

The Department of Health and Social Care

National Survivor User Network

Spinal Injuries Association

COVID Mutual Aid UK

Disability North

Disability Wales

Citizens Advice

16 April 2020

 

Coronavirus: Testing questions as ministers’ attention finally turns to care homes

Fresh concerns have been raised about the government’s commitment to testing social care service-users and staff – despite new ministerial announcements – following reports that suggest thousands of care home residents have died after being infected with coronavirus.

This week saw a series of reports that suggest deaths from COVID-19 in care homes have been vastly under-reported, with one new piece of research suggesting that about half of deaths from the virus across five European countries* had come in care homes.

The government’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said on Monday that about one in seven care homes across the country had registered cases of COVID-19.

And one of the largest care home providers said that more than 300 of its residents had died with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, while another said there had been more than 200 deaths among residents of its homes.

The government also admitted on Tuesday that only about 500 social care workers had been tested for COVID-19 so far.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC), which itself has been criticised for its slow response to the pandemic, said yesterday that adult social care providers were saying that COVID-19 was having “a devastating impact on both the people they care for and their staff”.

And new official figures suggested that a quarter of deaths in Scotland linked to COVID-19 had taken place in care homes.

Meanwhile, the disability charity Leonard Cheshire told Disability News Service yesterday that 16 of its care homes – it runs about 120 in total across the UK – had had a confirmed case of the virus.

Following several days of disturbing reports about unreported deaths in residential care, and the government’s failure to take protective action for service-users, the health and social care secretary Matt Hancock finally announced yesterday (Wednesday) that all care home residents with COVID-19 symptoms – although apparently not those older and disabled people receiving care and support in their own homes – would now be tested for the virus.

All patients discharged from hospital will also be tested for the virus before being admitted into care homes, said Hancock.

And all social care workers who need a test because of COVID-19 symptoms – and members of their household – will have access to one.

Last night, Hancock’s Department of Health and Social Care published its new social care action plan, which focuses on social care service-providers, the social care workforce and the public sector.

The action plan claims that the “first five symptomatic residents in a care home setting with an outbreak” are already being tested.

But Doug Paulley, who lives in a Leonard Cheshire care home in north Yorkshire, said that had not happened to his fellow residents.

He said that only one of three fellow residents who had shown symptoms of COVID-19 had been tested by the NHS.

Because Leonard Cheshire was unable to rule out coronavirus, all the residents have had to stay in their rooms for the past 11 days, apart from occasional visits to the garden.

One senior care worker had to take two weeks off work because a family member was showing potential symptoms.

Because the care worker was unable to be tested, he had not been able to work.

Paulley said: “We have all been stuck in lockdown for 11 days because the NHS will not test.”

But he said his biggest concern about living in a care home during the pandemic was being able to continue to secure the care he needs.

He said: “You’re relying on people coming from Leeds 10 miles away to do care in their low-paid, under-recognised job, putting themselves and their families at risk of catching it in the care home or on the bus on the way.

“I’m incredibly grateful to them but it also makes you feel vulnerable.”

Speaking before Hancock’s announcement on testing, Paulley said: “It does feel as if we are not talked about or being represented.”

He said the staff at his home had made it clear that they had asked for testing “and the NHS has said no”.

He also said Leonard Cheshire had not been communicating well with its residents about how the charity would keep the home running during the crisis, and there had been no service-user involvement, despite his repeated requests for more information.

A Leonard Cheshire spokesperson, also speaking before yesterday’s government announcements, said: “Like other care providers, we share concerns about the scale of testing to date.”

He said the disability charity had lobbied more than 80 MPs and the government to increase testing for social care staff and service-users.

He said: “It is crucial that testing is made available for care workers, so that desperately needed staff who are confirmed to not have COVID-19 can return to work.”

He said the charity had been communicating advice and guidance to staff, residents and families as it developed [Paulley said there had been just one letter from Leonard Cheshire to residents throughout the crisis] with managers “given the latest information to discuss with residents and answer questions as required, based on their knowledge of the people they support.

“We are always interested in the thoughts and ideas of the people who use our services, and mechanisms for user involvement and engagement are in place across the UK.

“This is a time for everyone to work collectively.”

Labour’s new shadow minister for social care, Liz Kendall, said: “Increased testing for care home residents and care staff is essential to tackling the emerging crisis in social care and something Labour has long been calling for.

“We look forward to seeing details of how this latest commitment will be delivered, with only 500 care staff having been tested to date.

“The government has rightly said the NHS will get whatever resources it needs to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This must also apply to social care, which needs a much greater priority and focus than it has had so far.

“Alongside this, ministers must act to ensure all care home and home care staff get the PPE [personal protective equipment] they need and publish daily figures on deaths outside hospitals, including in care homes, so we know the full scale of the challenge we face.”

*Italy, Spain, France, Ireland and Belgium

**Links to sources of information and support during the coronavirus pandemic include the following:

Real

Inclusion London

Disability Rights UK

The Department of Health and Social Care

National Survivor User Network

Spinal Injuries Association

COVID Mutual Aid UK

Disability North

Disability Wales

Citizens Advice

16 April 2020

 

Coronavirus: UK and Welsh governments fall short on food delivery details

The UK and Welsh governments have been able to give only the vaguest of promises on how they are tackling the risk that hundreds of thousands of disabled people could be left unable to secure food and other groceries during the coronavirus pandemic.

There have been repeated concerns raised by disabled people about the failure of governments and supermarkets to ensure that disabled people can feed themselves during the crisis.

Some have even warned that many disabled people could starve if action was not taken.

The government has also been warned that it could face legal action if it does not reconsider its strategy on how to ensure the delivery of vital groceries and food to disabled people.

A small proportion of disabled people – about 1.75 million across England, Wales and Scotland – have been categorised as being at the highest risk from the virus and have been promised emergency measures such as grocery deliveries if needed.

But a much larger number of disabled people who also cannot shop safely in supermarkets or are unable to leave their homes have so far been forced to rely on friends, family, charity or luck for regular supplies of groceries.

And this week neither the UK nor the Welsh government were able to make any firm promises of action to help this group of people, six weeks after the UK government first published its COVID-19 action plan.

Their failure to provide firm plans for dealing with the issue came as Labour’s newly-appointed shadow minister for disabled people, Vicky Foxcroft*, raised the issue in her first letter to Justin Tomlinson, the minister for disabled people.

Foxcroft called on Tomlinson to pressure environment secretary George Eustice and lobby supermarkets to ensure that people with sight loss – although she mentioned no other groups of disabled people – are considered a priority group who are able to access online shopping and home deliveries.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said on 2 April that it was “working quickly to support people who do not fall into the category of being clinically vulnerable, but still need help getting essential food supplies”.

It told Disability News Service a week later that it was “working hard to support the people who do not fall into the category of being clinically vulnerable, but still need help getting essential food and supplies” and was “quickly identifying who these people are and speaking directly to food retailers and volunteer groups to prioritise them for extra help or home deliveries”.

But DEFRA has been unable this week to say how many people it believes are in this group; how many of them it had been able to identify; how it was identifying them; what disabled people need to do to let the government know they need assistance with food; and whether DEFRA is confident that it will be able to provide support to all those disabled people who need it.

The Welsh government has also been unable to provide anything more than sketchy details about the measures it is taking.

A spokesperson for the Welsh government said: “We know there are many disabled people, and people with serious health conditions, who are not at the highest risk of COVID-19 and are not shielded.

“While we understand such people are in need of support, we also know supermarkets only have limited capacity to provide priority slots, and those slots have to be prioritised to those who are shielded.

“We ask that non-shielded vulnerable people seek support from family, friends or other support groups during this time.

“Some supermarkets have put measures in place to help carers, volunteers and those shopping for others.

“We are also working with WLGA [the Welsh Local Government Association] and WCVA [the Wales Council for Voluntary Action] to ensure local authorities and County Voluntary Councils are able to offer help to those without support.”

But the Welsh government has declined to provide any further details of how it will ensure the safety of those disabled people who need help securing essential food and supplies during the crisis.

WCVA declined to comment on the Welsh government’s performance or whether it had heard concerns itself about disabled people who had been unable to secure food and groceries.

But a WCVA spokesperson said it was working with local partners and local authorities to help co-ordinate volunteer support, connecting voluntary and community groups that can provide food and other support with the volunteers who can deliver it.

He said: “We would encourage those with concerns to get in touch with the local authority contact centre in the first place, to see what their local authority is already planning/delivering.

“They may well be referred to their local County Voluntary Council (CVC) for their knowledge of local voluntary sector services, or to a group signed up through the Volunteering Wales website.”

He added: “Infoengine [run by CVCs and WCVA] and Dewis [run by local authorities] provide up-to-date information about statutory and voluntary services, some of which are aimed at particular target groups in the community, including disabled people.

“Informal community groups are developing in many areas in response to the present situation and are providing valuable low-level neighbourly support. CVCs are likely to be aware of these also.”

WLGA did not respond to a request for a comment.

No-one from Disability Wales was available to comment by noon today (Thursday).

*DNS has requested an interview with the new shadow minister for disabled people

**Links to sources of information and support during the coronavirus pandemic include the following:

Real

Inclusion London

Disability Rights UK

The Department of Health and Social Care

National Survivor User Network

Spinal Injuries Association

COVID Mutual Aid UK

Disability North

Disability Wales

Citizens Advice

16 April 2020

 

Coronavirus: Kendall promises to challenge minister over lack of PA guidance

Labour’s new shadow social care minister has pledged to challenge her opposite number over the government’s continuing failure to publish guidance that would help disabled people protect themselves during the coronavirus crisis.

Liz Kendall, who was appointed to the role this month by Labour’s new leader, Keir Starmer, told Disability News Service there had been a “complete failure” to address the concerns of disabled people, including those on direct payments, who employ personal assistants (PAs) to provide their care and support.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) failed yet again this week to publish guidance for disabled people who use direct payments and employ PAs on how to protect themselves and their staff during the pandemic.

An estimated 70,000 disabled people employ PAs through direct payments.

Kendall, who is due to speak to the government’s under-fire social care minister Helen Whately today (Thursday), said: “I am speaking to Helen Whately tomorrow and I am raising this issue, that people desperately need guidance and support.

“In too many parts of the country, that is not happening.

“Clear guidance is clearly desperately needed. I will absolutely press Helen about this tomorrow.”

It is now a month-and-a-half since DHSC published its first COVID-19 action plan on 3 March and tomorrow it will be five weeks since ministers produced guidance for the wider social care sector, which was aimed at service-providers in the residential care, supported living and home care sectors, but not at disabled people who employ their own PAs.

Two weeks ago, a DHSC spokesperson said that guidance for disabled people who use direct payments would be published “shortly”.

Last night, DHSC published its new social care action plan, but it made only fleeting reference to disabled people receiving direct payments and the employment of PAs, although it suggested again that it would “shortly publish guidance setting out further details”.

Last week, Kendall wrote to the minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson, and raised with him the problems faced by employers of PAs in securing personal protective equipment (PPE, see separate story).

She told him that it was “increasingly clear that the lack of PPE and testing is a widespread problem throughout the care sector, affecting home care staff and Personal Assistants employed via Direct Payments as well as carers in residential homes”.

She said people who use direct payments were finding supplies of PPE were either poor quality or unavailable, and she added: “They then face the impossible decision of whether to go without essential care and support until PPE can eventually be sourced.”

DHSC had failed by noon today (Thursday) to comment on its continuing failure to produce guidance for disabled people who employ their own PAs.

*Links to sources of information and support during the coronavirus pandemic include the following:

Real

Inclusion London

Disability Rights UK

The Department of Health and Social Care

National Survivor User Network

Spinal Injuries Association

COVID Mutual Aid UK

Disability North

Disability Wales

Citizens Advice

16 April 2020

 

Coronavirus: Council tells ‘high risk’ disabled woman to wait weeks for protection

A disabled woman at high risk of serious illness if she is infected with COVID-19 has been told by her local authority to order protective equipment from Amazon, even though it would take at least a month to arrive from China.

Mary* – who uses direct payments to employ personal assistants (PAs) in her own home – said the exchange of emails with a care coordinator employed by her local council has demonstrated the poor advice disabled people in her position are receiving from central and local government.

She said it also highlights again that many disabled people who employ PAs are finding it impossible to secure the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic (see separate story).

Even though Mary told the council care coordinator that she was at high risk of serious illness because of asthma and a neuromuscular condition, she was advised to buy the PPE she needed to stay safe online from Amazon.

The only PPE available online has to be ordered from China, said Mary, and takes at least a month to arrive, so the care co-ordinator suggested she try Boots instead, before appearing to admit that they only sell gloves.

The care coordinator – who works for East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) – eventually admitted that it was a problem supplying PPE to everyone, “right across all sectors”.

She then appeared to suggest that Mary could make her own masks at home, telling her: “I’ve made a few masks for home should I show any symptoms so that I can hopefully not pass the virus on.”

Mary told Disability News Service that she was concerned about both disabled people in her area who use direct payments to provide support in their home, and the PAs who are being put at risk themselves.

She said: “Disabled people and carers are just being sacrificed, with nobody even providing advice of any sort to people on direct payments, never mind practical help.”

She said there was clearly a postcode lottery when it came to securing PPE, as she had been told by a union colleague that at least one local authority had provided PPE to service-users who employ PAs.

Asked to respond to Mary’s concerns, an ERYC spokesperson was unable by noon today (Thursday) to explain the care coordinator’s advice.

But she said its social care team was “in touch regularly with residential and domiciliary care providers and are offering support where needed in terms of PPE and supplies, as well as ensuring that they have access to the right information and that guidance is clear and understood”.

She said a “dedicated team of people are working to ensure PPE is secured from a range of suppliers”, while residents “can access the council’s website for information on how to get support”.

She said the council had also helped set up a “community response hub” to work alongside community and voluntary groups across the area that are already providing support to those “who don’t have a network of family, friends, neighbours or carers to call upon”.

*Not her real name

**Links to sources of information and support during the coronavirus pandemic include the following:

Real

Inclusion London

Disability Rights UK

The Department of Health and Social Care

National Survivor User Network

Spinal Injuries Association

COVID Mutual Aid UK

Disability North

Disability Wales

Citizens Advice

16 April 2020

 News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com