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Training of trainers II
II Module within ToT More...
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Training of trainers
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Workshop on Independent Living
CIL Leskovac organised More...
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Training for PA users
Another PA training More...
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Round table on education of PWDs
Another round table was organised More...

Good, Bad, Ugly: Coronavirus & Disabled People


The Coronavirus pandemic has been bad news for everyone but Disabled People have been hit harder than most. Data from the Office for National Statistics covering the period up to November 2020 shows that Disabled people were more than three times more likely to die from Coronavirus than non-disabled people.

The risk for People with Learning Difficulties was over 6 times higher. Altogether, around 60% of all those who have died from Coronavirus have been Disabled People. In some cases Disabled People have been directly denied treatment for Covid-19 because of Disability.

During the early stages of the Pandemic, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) issued guidance to hospitals on managing treatment. This included advice on using a Clinical Frailty Scale to determine priority for access to critical care. This had the effect of systematically giving lower priority to Disabled People and those with long-term health conditions.

It was later amended to make clear that it should not be used in this way but, inevitably, this will have led to an unknown number of people dying in the meantime. There were also many reports of Disabled People in hospital having Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) notices placed on their medical charts, usually without their knowledge. Following pressure from Disabled campaigners the Government later issued guidance outlawing this practice.

But, again, a report by the Care Quality Commission in December 2020 found that inappropriate DNACPR notices had directly caused a number of potentially avoidable deaths. Despite this there have been worrying reports that People with Learning Difficulties are still being given Do Not Resuscitate orders during the second wave of the pandemic. For those who have survived there have been a range of other challenges that, again, seem to have had a disproportionate impact on Disabled People. One of the first major issues that Disabled People had to face was the lack of Protective Personal Equipment (PPE) for people who employed their own Personal Assistants. During the first few months of the pandemic many people struggled to find any supplies of PPE at all and none was made available by the Government or Local Authorities either. This left Disabled People - some of whom were at particularly high risk - completely exposed.

Some were so concerned about this that they chose to stop letting their Personal Assistants into their homes until PPE could be found - as that was seen as the lesser of two evils. Similarly, guidance issued by the Government on delivering care and support safely completely ignored Personal Assistants, leaving many Disabled People in the dark about what they should be doing to keep themselves and their workers safe. After lobbying by Disabled People the Department for Health and Social Care did eventually publish guidance for people using Direct Payments - but this was only after a considerable delay which, again, left Disabled People at risk in the meantime.

There have also been major problems for the 2.2 million people in the 'shielding' group. A recent report by the National Audit Office found that there had been a failure on the part of government to adequately prepare for Disabled People needing to shield from the pandemic because previous pandemic preparedness planning had not considered how to identify and shield people who are considered clinically vulnerable.

As a result, although the Government first told people in this group to start shielding on 22 March 2020, it took until 7 May for nearly half of them to be put on the list. This left nearly one million people unprotected with the result that death rates amongst the shielding group have been some of the highest recorded - at 8.6 per cent. Many Disabled People have found the social care has failed to respond effectively to the pandemic with large numbers of contracted services cancelled, suspended or severely limited.

Recent research by the London School of Economics found that some Disabled People had seen their funding for support services reduced, or even stopped altogether - leaving them without any alternative support. At the same time, many service users were very anxious about having too many people come into their homes so chose to rely on family members instead. There had also been problems with the accessibility of a range of information about Coronavirus.

This had been a particular issue for Deaf People as, for quite some time, none of the Governments daily briefings had any BSL signing leaving people to search around as best they could to find out what was going on. It was only after a legal challenge started by Katie Rowley, a Deaf actress from Leeds, that the Government started to provide BSL signing. However this has only been for Ministerial briefings and not the science briefings, so Deaf People still do not have equal access. The use of face masks has also caused difficulties as lack of transparent masks for lip-reading has left people excluded from the spoken word. The move to home learning has also created barriers as provision for this did not initially include children with special educational needs and learning materials have often been inaccessible.

Most recently, for reasons that are not entirely clear, Government advice in November 2020 that people should return to work wherever possible omitted to make any reference to people who had been shielding. This left many Disabled People in a perilous situation - feeling pressured to return to work and having to choose between their safety and the risk of losing their jobs. As a result of these problems many Disabled People feel that they have been abandoned and forgotten or, at best, their needs have just been an afterthought. None of this should be any surprise.

The needs of Disabled People being overlooked, misunderstood or just plain ignored is something that has been going on forever - only, this time, the consequences for some have been particularly deadly. It is not all bad news however as the pandemic has also created some surprising benefits for many Disabled People. One of the biggest changes has been the major shift towards work and other activities taking place virtually instead of in physical environments. In terms of employment, this has made it much easier for Disabled People who need to work from home as they do not even have to ask for this as a Reasonable Adjustment because it has become the norm for everyone. Some, who have struggled to move into work in the past, have also found that it is now easier to apply for jobs and that employers are more willing to take them on.

The fact that all kinds of different meetings now routinely take place virtually has also made a wide range of activities more accessible for Disabled People. This has benefits at work as well other activities like social gatherings, involvement in local politics, and a range of leisure activities. Similarly, art galleries and other cultural venues have started providing virtual access which has meant that Disabled People who previously found these inaccessible have been able to enjoy them the same as everyone else. In terms of access to services, GP consultations by telephone or video-call - something that Disabled People have been asking for many years - have become routine.

Of course, there has never been any reason why this couldn't have happened ages ago but it took changes to the needs of non-disabled people for the objections to magically disappear. This is all very good news although it is important to remember that quite a large number of Disabled People do not have access to digital communications. So, while there have been huge benefits for many Disabled People there is also a danger of creating another form of exclusion for some.

On a psychological level it is also interesting that some Disabled People have commented that the way everyone has been forced to live over the past year has had the effect of reducing feelings of difference and exclusion. Not going out or not seeing other people has become the norm for everyone, which some Disabled People see as a case of 'welcome to my world', at least for now. Without doubt it has created a levelling out of people's experiences. Of course, none of this was planned or in any way deliberate. Rather, these benefits for Disabled People have just been 'accidental' side-effects of the seismic changes that the whole of society has been forced to undergo. It's as if someone forgot to shut the door that usually keeps Disabled People out and they have simply walked through it.

The question in future will be whether or not the door stays open. Only time will tell but the signs look promising as many people have discovered that the new ways of doing things offer many benefits such as helping to achieve a better work-life balance and reducing travel costs, as well as wider benefits like reducing carbon emissions. There are down sides too however, so we cannot be sure whether 'the new normal' is here to stay. The other major benefit of the pandemic - that has impacted on all groups - is the groundswell of community spirit and action that it has fostered.

People have volunteered in the thousands to help others with things like shopping and collecting prescriptions, or simply providing company for people who are isolated. Obviously, many of these volunteers will drop away as the pandemic eases but, even if just a small percentage decide to carry on, that will have created a vastly increased community resource compared to what we had pre-2020.

Similarly, the pandemic has also highlighted the value of existing community based organisations, such as Disabled People's Organisations. At the start of the pandemic many completely changed their operations in response and were able to fill some of the gaps in social care. Community based organisations were also very quick off the mark to provide support with mental health and social isolation and with practical assistance such as shopping and provision of PPE. Almost invariably, the response was much quicker than that from Local Authorities. The community sector - along with the NHS - has been the backbone of the response to the pandemic.


08.04.2021

All news:

Training of trainers II
Training of trainers
Workshop on Independent Living
Training for PA users
Round table on education of PWDs
PA Training in Sabac
Good, Bad, Ugly: Coronavirus & Disabled People
Round table on political participation
Round table on employment of PWDs
Training for PA users



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