Disability Groups are concerned that the Coronavirus Bill due to be rushed through parliament in the next few days will cost the country more by putting pressure on the NHS by curtailing community care services for people with disabilities.
Fazilet Hadi, Head of Policy, Disability Rights UK said: “Our key concern is that the Bill enables local authorities to suspend rights to assessment and support under the Care Act. Given that it is only people with the highest needs that receive local authority care and support, it can’t be right to leave this group of people without this vital life line.
“We also oppose the reduction of protections for people being detained under the Mental Health Act. Removing liberty is a drastic action and safeguards need to be in place.
“Disability Rights UK understands these are unprecedented times, but removing rights and protections from disabled people who are most at risk cannot be justified.”
Leading Barristers at Doughty Street Chambers have said: “We should all be very worried about the serious impact of the Coronavirus Bill on adults with care and support needs and their carers, whose needs can (and most likely will) be overlooked during this crisis and beyond.”
The full text of their letter is here:
“I am writing to ask you to take action to protect many thousands of Disabled people who rely on support from social care services. Please raise the issue and table and support the amendments to prevent this from happening.
I know this is a tough, difficult and challenging time for everybody, and we all need to support each other and do what we can. On the other hand, I strongly believe in these unprecedented times, those who need support should be protected.
I believe that the CoronaVirus Bill presents a real danger to Disabled people. It is understandable and right that the Government is attempting to relieve pressure on the NHS. But the Government’s plans for Disabled children and adults during the coronavirus crisis are effectively rolling back thirty years of progress for Disabled people. The proposals also come at a time when many Disabled people have experienced years of cuts to their support.
The Government plans to:
• Remove Disabled people’s entitlement to social care. In practice, this will mean local authorities will no longer be legally required to provide support to people who they already recognised as needing it.
• According to the Government, this is to ensure local authorities can prioritise and meet the needs in new cases.
• The Government made more funding available, so it is hard to see why it is necessary to remove the entitlement to social care for those who already get very little. It is worth remembering that community groups and volunteers cannot deliver the support many Disabled and older people need.
• Experience and research have illustrated that the lack of social care support puts more strain on the NHS. Surely this is a wrong thing to do at a time when the Government tries to free up resources for the NHS. This way of dealing with the immediate crisis can have considerable and devastating consequences in the longer run.
• Change the duties to educate to meet children’s educational requirements to a ‘reasonable endeavours’ duty
• Make it easier to detail and treat people involuntarily under the Mental health Act. The existing safeguards are already too weak, and the number of people who are detained has grown significantly in the last few years. Detention will be a severe interference with a person’s fundamental human rights to liberty and freedom. Moreover, detaining people will cost the NHS a lot of money. Instead of making it easier to detain people, more support should be put to help people in the community.
I am sure there must be a solution to this crisis that would protect Disabled people’s rights. “
Cllr Alan Hall is signing this letter because it is important to protect disability rights. In these unusual and demanding times we can amend the Coronavirus Bill as modest adjustments to the Bill could free much needed space in hospitals and save money for our overstretched NHS as well. You can add your voice but writing a letter see here
The Shadow Cabinet Member for Mental Health & Social Care, Barbara Keeley, MP expressed “deep concern” and has written to the Secretary of State for Health in the letter below: