Coronavirus: Disabled people have been excluded and marginalised, says report

Disabled people have faced discrimination in every area of their lives from the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, new research by a user-led organisation has found.

The research by Inclusion London reveals that the COVID-19 crisis is impacting disabled people across every part of their lives.

Disability News Service has seen a draft version of an interim report based on the research, Abandoned, Forgotten and Ignored, which concludes: “Despite the government’s rhetoric about protecting and supporting Disabled people, the reality is that during the pandemic we have been treated less fairly and discriminated against across all areas of our lives.”

But it also warns that – because many disabled people most affected by the pandemic, such as those in care homes or psychiatric institutions, will not have had access to its online survey – the findings are likely to represent only “the tip of the iceberg”.

The report is based on more than 300 online responses from across England (as well as a small number from Scotland and Wales) to the survey.

Inclusion London says those responses show disabled people reporting increasing levels of mental distress, social isolation, a lack of care and support, problems with accessing food and medicine, and unequal access to healthcare.

The research also highlights how the actions of central government, local authorities and service-providers have continued to exclude and marginalise disabled people and expose them to discrimination.

Disabled people have repeatedly had to resort to legal action to put an end to the discrimination they have faced during the crisis, the report says.

It adds: “The coronavirus crisis has reinforced the view amongst many of us that society looks on us as second class citizens, a burden on the state and expendable.”

Among the evidence from the report, disabled people in high-risk groups said they had been unable to obtain personal protective equipment (PPE), and had had their care packages cut and their social care assessments delayed.

More than a quarter of those who responded said they had had problems securing PPE, with some being forced to place essential social care on hold because of shortages of PPE and the lack of effective testing of staff for COVID-19.

Lengthy delays by the government in publishing guidance meant that those receiving direct payments “were primarily left on their own”, says the report, and were expected to deal with staff issues, source their own PPE and put in place their own emergency contingency plans.

One disabled person said: “My care agency are not getting adequate PPE, and they are so short-staffed at present that I’ve been lucky to get a shower once a month (and cannot have a strip wash at all due to them sending male care workers to me eight times out of 10 instead of female), and am not getting one in three of my daily care calls.”

More than three-fifths of those who responded to the survey said they had struggled to access food, medicine, and other necessities.

Some described how supermarkets refused to make reasonable adjustments for them when they tried to shop in-store, or how they were unable to order home deliveries; others have not received the support they need to prepare meals; and some have been forced to spend more money on food by having to shop in more expensive stores or order meals online.

One respondent said: “I am not considered vulnerable as I don’t have any of the qualifying conditions on the government website, but due to blindness, I’m unable to get priority access to online deliveries for food shopping.

“Being blind and living alone with no support nearby, I cannot physically attend a supermarket as I require a member of staff to guide me around the shop.

“I have no idea where my next meal is coming from.”

Nearly half of the respondents reported inaccessible and confusing public health information and government guidance.

One said: “Lack of information, lack of support. No one contacted me from social services to see if I was coping.

“I got in contact as no PPEs, no key worker ID for my PAs. No info as to what to do if I or my PAs have to self isolate.

“I feel completely ignored as a direct payment client. I’ve been left to get on with it!”

More than a third of those surveyed spoke of their own increasing levels of mental distress during the pandemic.

One respondent said: “I have been inside for three-and-a-half weeks without going out, and I’m losing my mind.

“I have a pre-existing mental health condition, and this is seriously causing a big relapse.

“I feel trapped and controlled and claustrophobic and constantly on edge and irritable.

“But I’m too scared to leave the house because if I get sick, I know that, as someone with pre-existing conditions, doctors will leave me to die in favour of someone who has a better chance of surviving.”

Several of those who responded to the survey said they had been asked to agree to having “do not attempt resuscitation” orders placed in their medical records, with others told they would not be admitted to hospital if they fell ill or would be denied life-saving emergency treatment.

One said: “I can’t access the government scheme for support because apparently I’m not disabled enough.

“However I’m disabled enough to get suggested to sign DNR [Do Not Resuscitate], and inferred I’d be left to die if hospitalised.”

Inclusion London concludes the report by warning that there will be a “much higher demand” for advice and support from disabled people after the lockdown is lifted, which will mean a need for increased funding for these services.

There is also likely to be a “significant need” for funding for DPOs to provide new support services for the thousands of disabled people who will probably need to shield at home over the next 12 to 18 months, the report says.

*A webinar and panel discussion to launch the report will take place on Wednesday (24 June) from 5pm to 6.30pm. Register here to attend

**For sources of information and support during the coronavirus crisis, visit the DNS advice and information page

18 June 2020

 

Black disabled people ‘must protest at invisibility and discrimination’

Black disabled people must organise a protest to draw attention to their continuing “invisibility” and the multi-layered discrimination they face, according to a leading disabled black activist.

Julie Jaye Charles spoke out this week in the wake of mass protests across the UK by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

Those protests – and others across the world – have reflected the outrage felt at the continuing discrimination experienced by black communities, following the killing of a black man, George Floyd, by a white police officer in Minneapolis, USA.

Jaye Charles called for a protest as leading disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) released statements expressing solidarity with BLM.

She has been calling for more than three decades for proper funding for black disabled people’s organisations.

Now she has written to the prime minister and the Government Equalities Office – and the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the government’s Disability Unit – to highlight yet again “the invisibility of black disabled people”.

And she has called for a protest march to highlight the ongoing discrimination faced by black and other minority ethnic disabled people in the UK, in areas such as service provision, housing, immigration, education and access to information, as well as the “vast amount of black men in the criminal justice system and mental health system”.

She said: “I know that if we were to march, others would march with us.”

She said she was convinced that the BLM movement and non-BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) disabled activists would march alongside BAME disabled people if a protest was organised.

She told DNS: “We have got to rise up because our lives matter. It’s time now. Enough people have suffered.

“If we are talking about injustice, this is injustice.”

But she also pointed out that black disabled people sometimes faced discrimination within their own community.

She said: “But when it comes to the Black Lives Matter movement, they will definitely come in solidarity.

“If they know about it, they will do what needs to be done.”

Only two months ago, Jaye Charles told the annual Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA) national conference that she was setting up a new organisation of BAME disabled people, Start Change: The People’s Council.

She said then that Start Change would enable BAME disabled people “to have our own voices, to get our own views and voices heard” and to co-produce policy “so that we are not ignored by government”.

But Start Change has yet to secure any funding and this week Jaye Charles has been putting together a funding application for a new UK-wide network, Black Disabled Lives Matter, under the Start Change umbrella.

She told DNS: “We are a hidden part of society. There needs to be a collective voice now.”

She said the British government had just “stood by and watched” as black disabled people’s organisations have “disappeared” through lack of funding over the last decade.

And she said that recommendations from a 2012 report* (PDF) by the organisation she founded, Equalities National Council, and Scope, had been ignored, including its call for the government to draw up a plan to address the needs of disabled people from BAME communities.

The report was debated in the House of Lords in January 2013, with both BAME and disabled peers speaking, including Lord Ouseley, Lord Boateng, Baroness Masham and Lord Low.

Jaye Charles said the failure to act on the report was “just another beating”, and “that it demonstrated the discrimination that disabled BAME people still experience and will always experience unless our lives matter too”.

Meanwhile, other disabled people’s organisations have spoken out in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests.

Disability Rights UK (DR UK)’s chief executive, Kamran Mallick, was one of those to express support for BLM.

In a statement, he pointed out that black disabled adults faced more barriers to accessibility than all other ethnic groups in areas including education, employment and leisure, while black disabled people “have the most trouble accessing the support services they need, resulting in poorer life outcomes across the board”.

He said he was “not ok with disabled black people being less visible, less heard and less represented in society”.

Mallick said: “Black people have endured less opportunity, more oppression, a denial of rights, the fruits of ignorance, and the outcomes of hatred, both overt and covert, both personal and institutional, for too long. Disabled people have endured the same.”

He said he had experienced both racism and disablism and had made it his mission to include more people of colour at DR UK when he took over as chief executive.

A third of its operational workforce now come from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, as well as a fifth of its trustees, and a quarter of its ambassadors.

Mallick said: “We are acutely aware of the strength needed by people who have to deal with the double-burden of ableism and racism in society.”

He said DR UK was committed to providing services within BAME communities, giving platforms to BAME disabled people, listening to, employing and working with BAME disabled people, and lobbying government to publish more transparent and accessible data on disability, with greater detail about ethnic groups.

The disabled women’s collective Sisters of Frida (SoF) also expressed its solidarity with BLM, and – like Julie Jaye Charles – pointed out that racism and disablism were “intertwined”.

SoF said in a statement: “From deaths in custody to the hostile environment, from the school exclusions to austerity policies, black lives and, in particular, black disabled lives, are devalued by systemic and structural racism and ableism.

“The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare health inequalities in the UK: black people are four times more likely to die of COVID-19 than white people and deaths of people with learning difficulties have gone up by 134 per cent during the pandemic.

“We fight for a world where black disabled women are valued, cherished and can thrive in our communities.”

Inclusion London expressed solidarity with BLM and committed to “understanding, addressing the needs and amplifying the voices of disabled people who experience intersectional exclusion and discrimination” and to “working in solidarity with our sister user-led BAME organisations fighting for equality and justice”.

It pledged to set up a new intersectional advisory group of disabled people who themselves experience intersectional exclusion and discrimination.

This group will work with Inclusion London to co-produce a programme of intersectional work over the next three years that will “seek to understand and meet the needs, and amplify the voice, of disabled people who experience intersectional exclusion”.

It also pledged to work with disabled staff within DPOs who experience intersectional exclusion to provide training, support and networking opportunities so those DPOs can improve their support for disabled BAME, LGBTQ+ and women staff.

Another DPO to express solidarity with BLM was The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE).

In a statement, ALLFIE condemned “all forms of violence, abuse, injustice and demand everyone has a right to be respected and free from discrimination”.

It highlighted how reports had shown that the education system had “disproportionately failed disabled black children and young people in the UK”.

It was another DPO to stress the importance of an intersectional approach, pledging to do “much more work to ensure we are not mutually exclusive in our work and don’t view ‘disability’ as a single issue”.

It has produced a series of videos of black disabled campaigners to show solidarity with BLM “but also recognise the voices and contributions” of disabled black people to its own campaign for human rights.

*Over-looked Communities, Over-due Change: how services can better support BME disabled people

18 June 2020

 

Coronavirus: New NHS guidance ‘leaves door open to dangerous discrimination’

The failure of NHS England to consult with disabled people over new guidance on hospital visitors has left the door open to “dangerous and discriminatory” treatment, according to two campaigners.

Fleur Perry and Mark Williams have asked NHS England to explain why it failed to consult with disabled people and disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) before producing the guidance.

They have also launched a petition that seeks support for their call for NHS England and the UK government to consult with disabled people when planning health policies.

They had each threatened legal action over an NHS England document that prevented disabled people with high support needs being accompanied into hospital by their personal assistants (PAs) if they became ill during the coronavirus pandemic.

Both of them feared they would not be allowed to be accompanied to hospital by a PA, and that this would deny them support from someone who knew them well, preventing their needs and wishes from being met, and potentially putting their lives in danger.

But although NHS England backed down and agreed to produce new guidance, it failed to consult with Williams and Perry, and seems also to have failed to consult with any DPOs.

When it published the new guidance (PDF) earlier this month it was given a guarded welcome, as it suggests that PAs should now be allowed to accompany patients.

But the guidance also suggests that this should be allowed only “where appropriate and necessary”, while the document says it is only “advice” for how NHS organisations “may choose to facilitate visiting”.

Perry said the new guidance “leaves room for dangerous and discriminatory treatment to occur” and that she had not ruled out further legal action.

She said: “We need change in how the NHS makes decisions which affect disabled people, and I’m willing to fight for it.”

She said it was “extremely disappointing” that NHS England did not appear to have consulted with DPOs before publishing the new guidance.

Perry said: “We’ve proved that disabled people are affected by this, but we’re not treated as stakeholders, or even mentioned as a group in the guidance.

“That doesn’t feel fair, and I suspect it may be unlawful.”

She said there had been a series of decisions and actions taken by the government, NHS England and other health bodies during the pandemic – including the widespread use of “do not attempt resuscitation” orders and guidance suggesting that many disabled people would not receive life-saving treatment if they were infected with COVID-19 – which suggested that disabled people had been deemed “unworthy”.

She said: “There are people actively making these decisions, and I’m not the only one who’s scared by that thought.

“We need to make sure that disabled people’s voices are there at the tables where these decisions are being made, that the Equality Act and Human Rights Act are respected and understood by both disabled people and decision makers, and that the way we talk and think about disabled people reflects our equal right to being.”

Williams said the new version of the guidance was “still unclear” on who makes the decisions on whether PAs can be admitted to hospital; was not underpinned by human rights; and was open to misinterpretation.

He said this lack of clarity “highlights why consultation with disabled people should always be the first action to be taken” and not an “afterthought”.

Neither NHS England nor the Department of Health and Social Care had responded to a request for a comment by noon today (Thursday).

18 June 2020

 

Coronavirus: Action celebrates disability arts while highlighting pandemic concerns

A day of action on social media has celebrated disability culture and highlighted the concerns of disabled artists about their future as they struggle with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Artists and cultural leaders shared work by disabled visual artists, actors, directors, writers and dancers throughout yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon and evening, through an action led by the new disability arts alliance #WeShallNotBeRemoved, which was formed as a reaction to the impact of the pandemic on disability arts.

Their efforts saw the hashtag #WeShallNotBeRemoved trending as high as number three in the UK on Twitter.

Artist Rachel Gadsden said on Twitter: “Today all day I am celebrating the disability arts movement, which I am proud to be part of.

“I am celebrating being a disabled artist, and demanding that we are involved in national planning about life in art and culture after #Covid19.”

Poet Ellen Renton tweeted: “It’s hard to ascertain the impact of the covid-19 crisis on the arts, but it’s indisputable that disabled artists must be at the forefront of the important decisions regarding how we move forward.”

Another disabled artist, Kekezza Reece, said on Twitter: “A storm is coming and we have to make sure disabled people are not pushed out of art.”

There were images and videos from scores of theatre productions and other art and mentions for hundreds of disabled creatives and disability arts organisations.

From Claire Cunningham to Mat Fraser, from Dave Toole to Jamie Beddard, from Paula Garfield to Cherylee Houston, from Amit Sharma to Jess Thom, and from Nadia Nadarajah to Bobby Baker, disabled artists from across the UK added their voices to the social media action.

Theatre company Graeae, which has played a key role in the campaign, released a new video featuring some of its disabled artists, colleagues and collaborators talking about the impact of the pandemic.

They spoke of how “work has disappeared”, and of the “sense of panic” they felt during the pandemic.

One of them, musician and activist John Kelly, said: “The pandemic has been a real indicator of how much the government has valued disabled people’s lives.

“The pandemic has just amplified our experience of discrimination.”

One disabled artist told Graeae that the lockdown had made “so many people feel alone and less empowered”.

Another said: “I am terrified that we will be left behind.”

And another said: “In the future, I hope the mainstream theatre world, the art world, won’t forget deaf and disabled artists, because in the future our ideas have to thrive again.”

Andrew Miller, the government’s disability champion for arts and culture, told Graeae: “Disabled people must be part of shaping the recovery and the future of our industry.

“We need to resist the ableism that will undoubtedly emerge to drive national reconstruction.”

Last week, in the campaign’s first action, more than 100 leading disabled artists and cultural leaders called on the culture secretary to protect the future of disability arts in the UK.

In a letter to Oliver Dowden, and culture ministers in the UK’s devolved governments, they warned that the coronavirus pandemic had left many disabled artists “facing long term shielding, a total loss of income, compromised independent living and the risk of invisibility in wider society”.

They called on the government and the arts sector “to ensure the progress we have collectively made does not falter in this moment of crisis”; to prioritise and celebrate disabled artists, employees and audiences; and to ensure that the renewal and recovery of the wider cultural industries was guided by “a fully inclusive approach informed by disabled creative professionals”.

18 June 2020

 

Festival set to offer a WILD day in as an escape from lockdown

A one-day online festival is set to showcase some of the most exciting and influential disabled performers, artists and activists, challenge the erosion of disabled people’s rights, and point the way towards a more inclusive society.

The WILD Day In festival – on Saturday 11 July – hopes to provide an “escape and a safe space” for disabled people coping with lockdown.

In the long term, the World Independent Living Day (WILD) initiative hopes to fuel the transformation to a more inclusive society, with independent living at its heart.

The new event will mix the cultural and the political, and hopes to expose younger disabled people to new ideas about the independent living and disabled people’s movements and the push for a new National Independent Living Service.

High-profile disabled performers have already agreed to perform on the day, including Jon McClure, from the band Reverend and the Makers; comedian Rosie Jones; blind skateboarder Dan Mancina; and punk poet and author Penny Pepper.

McClure said: “I’m very proud to support WILD and any moves to provide a fully inclusive world for all disabled people.”

Others who have signed up include rapper and spoken word artist Georgie Stephanou, otherwise known as Potent Whisper; wheelchair motocross world champion Lily Rice, who featured in a BBC documentary about her exploits last night (Wednesday); All Abilities Martial Art, an inclusive martial arts and self-defence programme; the Project Impactive initiative at University College London, which is – among other projects – trying to design gaming controllers that can be operated with one hand; and Alex Walls, who runs an online computer game streaming channel.

Stephanou said: “It has never been more important for us all to take action – in whatever way we can – to oppose the violence of austerity and support those who are most affected by it.”

There will also be discussions, interviews and pre-recorded filmed segments; the screening of short films, including some that featured in last year’s Together! Disability Film Festival; and films of historic past protests by the Disabled People’s Direct Action Network (DAN).

Accessibility will be boosted by a new online platform designed for WILD Day In by Studio Hyte, building on technology that has enabled disabled people to participate remotely in anti-austerity protests.

The WILD Tool will allow disabled people to interact with performers during the afternoon, with the hope that those interactions will spark further events and activities.

The festival, which will feature British Sign Language interpreters and live subtitles, had been planned by founder Andy Greene to take place in central London on 5 May but had to be reimagined as an online festival because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Greene, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), which has contributed funding towards the event, said the idea had come from the need for “something different” after 10 years in which DPAC had “held the line” against the government’s regime of austerity, and a shattering general election result in December which appeared to pave the way for further years of austerity.

He hopes the festival will attract younger disabled people and expose them to some of the politics and history of the disability movement, and “regenerate” enthusiasm for the movement and a vibrant disability culture.

He said: “Hopefully, we will have kicked off something that will, a year down the line, have a bit of rolling momentum, with lots of people around the country doing interesting stuff.

“I know there is lots of interesting, sexy, buzzy stuff going on and I think that can be a vehicle for developing a sense of agency and collectivism.”

He said that DPAC and its series of direct action protests over the last decade have had a “massive impact and will continue to play that role”, but that it was also important to seek other tools and forms of activism and ways to involve disabled people in the movement.

Greene said: “You cannot have an inclusive society without a strong disability community.

“You cannot have a strong community without having a vibrant culture.

“Together we will build this vibrant culture by carrying on the spirit of the independent living movement and highlighting the contributions of the people who make up the movement’s past, present, and future.

“As we have learnt from history, independent living is the only way to ensure that we thrive as individuals.

“When we learn from each other and from our history, disabled people become central in defining our place in society.”

*The festival on Saturday 11 July will run from 3pm to 6pm and will be available on www.wildaboutculture.com

18 June 2020

 

Grassroots activism is the only way to end oppression, Barnes tells book launch

Disabled people will only end the oppression they have experienced over the last decade by getting involved in grassroots activism, according to one of the most significant figures in the development of the social model of disability.

Professor Colin Barnes, founder of both the Centre for Disability Studies at the University of Leeds and The Disability Press, said this week that disabled people had faced a “decade of oppression”.

He said: “The problems of disabled people have been compounded by the austerity process and now, particularly, with COVID-19 and the treatment of disabled and elderly people by this apology for a government.”

But he added: “The evidence of history shows that history can be changed through disabled people and their allies, and this is why ongoing activism is fundamental.

“Grassroots activism and involvement is the only way we will change this appalling situation.”

Barnes was speaking at the online launch of a new book by a leading disabled activist, Ellen Clifford, which describes a “pivotal” moment in the history of the disabled people’s movement: the decade since the election of the Tory-Lib Dem coalition in May 2010.

He said that disability was “essentially a capitalist creation”, as described in Clifford’s book, The War on Disabled People.

He said Clifford’s “accessible” book covered these issues with “comprehension” and “authority”.

He said: “It is in my view essential reading for everyone committed to and involved in the struggle for a change, a political change or shift towards a social and economic environment which includes all people and not [just] those at the top of the social hierarchy.”

Clifford, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), told the online launch event that she had wanted to put down in her book “what had actually happened” over the last decade from an activist’s point of view.

She said: “Disabled people are very used to other people talking for us and writing our history for us. I wanted to make sure that people know how change actually happens.

“It’s convenient for the ruling class to present history as changes that are handed down to us from above. That’s not how things happen.

“We only get progressive change when we unite and we demand that change.”

John McDonnell, until recently Labour’s shadow chancellor, and a key ally of DPAC over the last decade, said Clifford’s book provided “a narrative that we can use really effectively” in campaigning.

He said the book made the key point that “nothing has been given to disabled people. Nothing. It has had to be taken.

“It has had to be taken as a result of years and years of struggle.”

He added: “We will never obtain our desire for equality, our desire for a decent life, within this economic system.

“It isn’t just disabled people, it is everybody.

“A society based on an economy which is simply motivated by profit will never be able to satisfy the needs of people.

“We want to build a society which is based upon satisfying people’s needs, and to do that, you have to ensure that there’s equality, both in terms of the way people are treated, but also equality in what people can contribute.”

Disabled actor and activist Liz Carr, who was credited by Clifford for first introducing her to the social model of disability – which is key to the book – was another who spoke at the launch.

She said the social model “changes everything. It brings us together as disabled people, it unites us and it frees us.”

She said Clifford “burns so brightly” at a time when disabled people were “fighting pretty much for our very existence”.

Linda Burnip, DPAC’s co-founder – one of two disabled activists the book is dedicated to, alongside another co-founder, the late Debbie Jolly – said DPAC was “still here and we are still fighting”.

She spoke of the many people in care homes who were “basically left to die” during the coronavirus pandemic.

She said: “We can’t accept the deaths of so many of our people, and segregation into care homes like this and into adult treatment units where so many disabled people are incarcerated for years and years is not acceptable.”

Burnip said the “imprisonment” of so many disabled people in their own homes due to a lack of care and support was “equally unacceptable”.

Ann Galpin, co-chair of the TUC disabled workers’ committee and chair of the disabled members’ council of the National Union of Journalists, said all disabled people would “find passages in Ellen’s book that speak to our own lived experience”.

Others speaking at the launch included Professor Peter Beresford, co-chair of the service-user and disabled people’s network Shaping Our Lives; Labour MP Debbie Abrahams, a former shadow work and pensions secretary; the Daily Mirror’s Ros Wynne-Jones, who writes its Real Britain column; and former Labour MP and shadow employment rights secretary Laura Pidcock, who is now People’s Assembly’s national secretary.

*The War on Disabled People: Capitalism, Welfare and the Making of a Human Catastrophe, by Ellen Clifford, published by Zed Books, is available in paperback at £12.99. ISBN: 978-1-78699-664-0

18 June 2020

 

Round-up: Face masks, rights in detention, shielding… and PIP

Disabled people and their organisations have raised concerns about the impact of new laws that mean passengers on public transport in England must wear a face mask or risk a fine.

Disabled people who are not able to wear a face covering for impairment-related reasons, such as those who are autistic, who rely on lip-reading, or have asthma or epilepsy, are exempt from the rules, under new regulations.

But Transport for All (TfA), which campaigns for older and disabled Londoners, said it feared that disabled passengers could face “discriminatory interrogation” from frontline staff if they fail to wear a mask.

TfA said it also feared “peer policing” by members of the public if the exemptions were not communicated “quickly and clearly” to all passengers.

And it said it was concerned about what would happen in taxis and private hire vehicles, where the new regulations do not apply.

The coronavirus pandemic has put the rights of young autistic people and people with learning difficulties in detention at increased risk, according to a new parliamentary report.

Last November, the joint committee on human rights reported on the abuse of rights – through unlawful detention, restraint and solitary confinement – of young people with learning difficulties and young autistic people who are detained in assessment and treatment units and mental health hospitals.

Now, in a new report, the committee says the risk of their human rights being abused is even greater under the COVID-19 lockdown.

The committee says the situation is now “a severe crisis” because of bans on family visits; the suspension of routine inspections by the care watchdog; increased use of restraint and solitary confinement; and the vulnerability of those in detention to COVID-19 infection because of underlying health conditions and the difficulty of maintaining social distancing in detention.

The shadow minister for disabled people has written to the government to raise concerns about its policies on protecting those shielding from coronavirus.

Labour’s Vicky Foxcroft, who herself has been shielding from the virus, said she was concerned about the “lack of transparency” around the government’s list of those seen as “clinically extremely vulnerable”.

In her letter to health and social care secretary Matt Hancock, Foxcroft called on the government to introduce a “safe shielding hour” that would reduce the anxiety of those seen as particularly vulnerable to the virus when they take exercise.

She also called on him to increase clarity by publishing the level of risk faced by people with different health conditions.

And she said the Treasury should ensure that anyone who is shielding and cannot yet return to work is covered by the government’s furlough scheme.

Meanwhile, the government is preparing new advice for those who have been shielding in England.

Although reports suggest ministers will announce an end to the shielding programme – including its deliveries of food packages and medicine – at the end of July, the government said that no final decision had yet been made.

The coronavirus pandemic appears to have caused a sharp drop in the number of new claims for personal independence payment (PIP), according to government figures.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said there were about 25,000 registrations for new PIP claims in April 2020, less than three-fifths (58 per cent) of the number in the same period in 2019.

The number of requests from existing PIP recipients for DWP to consider a change of circumstances also fell sharply, from 6,070 in April 2019 to 3,720 in April 2020.

As many as 85 per cent of people who have been shielding during the pandemic feel unsafe when going outside, despite lockdown guidance being relaxed on 1 June, according to a new survey.

Disability Rights UK (DR UK) said that only two-fifths of those shielding had left home since the guidelines were eased.

Only 15 per cent said they trusted the government’s advice on shielding, and even fewer (13 per cent) thought the government was basing its policies on the best available scientific advice.

Many of those shielding said they had found it difficult to access support with securing food or medication because their impairments or health conditions did not appear on the government’s list of those seen as “clinically extremely vulnerable”.

Fazilet Hadi, DR UK’s head of policy, said: “The government has failed to deliver strong support for disabled people and those with chronic health conditions throughout the coronavirus crisis.

“It is clear that many people do not trust the government’s handling of the crisis to date.

“If it is to win trust, it must recognise that there are far more people who need proper support beyond those with immuno-suppressed conditions.”

A new project that aims to increase the number of disabled people working in museums by arranging work placements as curators has secured nearly £120,000 in development funding from the National Lottery.

Accentuate’s Curating for Change project, which plans to work with 18 museums across England to deliver eight full-time fellowships and eight part-time traineeships (two of them are joint placements), has secured the funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

As well as increasing the number of disabled people working in museums, Accentuate also hopes the project will “create a sea change” in how disability history is represented in collections and museums, and in the accessibility of exhibitions.

During the development period, Accentuate will consult with museums, specialist networks and disabled people’s organisations, and examine how online tools could make museums more accessible to disabled people.

Last year, Esther Fox, head of Accentuate, told a parliamentary event that museums needed to take radical action to address the “woeful” under-representation of disabled people in their workforce.

This week she said: “There is a huge appetite within museums to address the current underrepresentation of D/deaf, disabled and neurodiverse people, but they are keen to have specialist knowledge to inspire and support them to do so.

“Accentuate knows that change is best when it comes from within organisations and we are passionate about supporting a whole new cohort of D/deaf, disabled and neurodiverse curators who will lead this process.”

Accentuate works to create opportunities for disabled people in the cultural sector and is part of the cultural development agency Screen South.

Disabled women are facing “immense” levels of disadvantage and pressure during the coronavirus lockdown, according to new research.

Disabled women who have moved to working from home during the lockdown are twice as likely (57.8 per cent) as non-disabled women (28.4 per cent) to be spending more time working now than before the crisis, it found.

And disabled women who are parents of under-11s are much more likely to be struggling to cope with all the demands on their time (63 per cent) than disabled men (51.8 per cent), non-disabled women (50.3) and non-disabled men (38.7 per cent).

Both disabled men and women are more likely to report concerns about finances, with 38.1 per cent of disabled men and 34.2 per cent of disabled women saying their household had nearly run out of money, compared with 24.4 per cent of non-disabled women and 23.4 per cent of non-disabled men.

The analysis was carried out by Women’s Budget Group, Fawcett Society, Queen Mary University London and London School of Economics, and was based on a survey in April of more than 3,000 people, including nearly 700 disabled people.

*For sources of information and support during the coronavirus crisis, visit the DNS advice and information page

18 June 2020

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com