Back to work ‘alarm bells’ for disabled people

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Back to work 'alarm bells' for disabled people


A woman sitting in a wheelchair wearing a mask and gloves, being pushed by a man wearing the sameImage copyright
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A leading charity says new advice for England to return to work if your workplace is “Covid secure” rings “alarm bells” for disabled people.

“Millions of disabled people at greater risk of coronavirus feel their fears are not being taken into account,” said James Taylor, from Scope.

The government said it had been “doing everything we can to support” disabled people during the pandemic.

Two-thirds of those who have died from coronavirus were disabled.

Following news that work from home advice would be relaxed from 1 August, Mr Taylor said: “Disabled people must be able to have flexibility about returning to their workplace.”

He criticised the government’s advice that decisions about going back to workplaces should be made my employers, saying it will “create inconsistency”.

Feeling anxious

He added that it also “does little to reassure those disabled people who fear being forced to choose between protecting their health and paying the bills”.

A Scope survey of 1,115 people with a disability or other health condition found half of those that responded feel anxious about shielding being paused.

In March, those most vulnerable to the virus were asked to “shield” – to not leave their homes or have contact with anyone they do not live with. These measures are being relaxed at the end of July.

Of those surveyed, 67% think the government’s plans for easing lockdown did not take their needs into consideration, while 59% said they are concerned about feeling forgotten by the government.

Moreover, 41% think life will be worse for disabled people after the pandemic.

‘Challenging time’

The government has faced repeated criticism of its coronavirus response from disabled people’s organisations.

“It’s welcome the government has stated in guidance that it will make sure disabled people can have independent lives. However, we now need to know what this means in practice and have reassurance that rights are protected throughout the pandemic and beyond,” Mr Taylor said.

A government spokesman said: “We know this has been a challenging time for disabled people and their families and we have been doing everything we can to support them at every stage of this pandemic.

“This includes increasing the standard Universal Credit allowance, suspending all face-to-face assessments for health and disability benefits and offering support digitally or over the phone where appropriate.

“Our priority is that disabled people continue to be supported, with their interests at the forefront of our recovery from the current healthcare emergency,” he added, and said the government would be bringing forward a green paper and a “national disability strategy” later this year.



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