Mike Smith, the former disability commissioner of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and now chief executive of the east London disabled people’s organisation Real, said the government’s pandemic strategy appeared to be to “protect the majority rather than those most at risk … (and that disabled people) are not a priority for the government”.
Mike’s comments came after the Disability News Service (DNS) published a list to highlight how the government has repeatedly failed to protect disabled people during the pandemic; to help push the government into launching an urgent inquiry to learn lessons from its handling of the crisis; and to try to persuade it to take a new approach before an expected second wave of the virus this winter.
The list of 17 breaches include restricting disabled people’s rights in its emergency Coronavirus Act and failing to ensure disabled people on direct payments had access to personal protective equipment. The research by DNS shows repeated breaches of the Equality Act, the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
Some of the 17 breaches have cost many lives, particularly the delays in testing social care staff for coronavirus and the decision to discharge hospital patients into care homes without testing them for COVID-19.
Although about half of the failings were eventually addressed – usually in response to campaigning by disabled people, often working alongside lawyers – others were not.
There are also concerns that even those breaches of rights that were addressed could re-emerge if the country’s public services are threatened this winter.
To read the full report by DNS which includes the list of 17 breaches please click here