Covid-19 and disability: the disturbing facts

Austin delves deeper into the impact of covid-19 on disabled workers.

For many, health was already a concern before the virus became a threat, and as many disabled workers are in insecure, part time work and with finances already stretched, the virus has made their lives very difficult. The lack of the usual support services and medical care has added to the burden.  With shielding being paused for those most susceptible to the virus, where does this leave disabled workers?  The government was telling those shielding that it’s safe to return to work, but now, because there’s a chance of a second wave of the virus, they will need to work from home, where possible.  Working from home comes with its own challenges, and can lead to feeling isolated, cut off from family, friends and colleagues and it can have a profound effect on mental health.

Worrying statistics

Two out of three people who have died as a result of Covid-19 have disabilities or are disabled. It’s therefore not surprising that according to the Office of National Statistics, almost half (45.1%) of disabled adults, compared with around a third (30.2%) of non-disabled adults, reported that they were extremely worried about the Covid-19 pandemic impacting on their lives. Nearly 9 in 10 disabled adults (86.3%) reported extreme concerns and nearly two-thirds (64.8%) of disabled adults stated that Covid-19-related concerns were affecting their well-being.

Feeling isolated

Around a third (35%) of disabled adults reported that they felt they were spending too much time along, compared to a fifth (19.9%) of non-disabled adults

In one survey over 60% of disabled people questioned said that they had struggled to access food, medicine and necessities and nearly half talked about inaccessible information, confusing guidance and lack of advice.

It is without question that disabled people feel abandoned and neglected in relation to the right to life and rationing of resources. Social care is being cut, reduced or failing to provide protective equipment. The Coronavirus pandemic has revealed the shocking extent of the discrimination and exclusion that disabled people face.

I believe that the government has failed outrageously by implementing the lockdown far too late and then by relaxing these laws far too soon, with the threat of a second wave. Before March 2020, strict quarantine measures could have avoided all these disasters. It is more important than ever that employers work with trade unions in order to tackle this Coronavirus outbreak and make work safe for everyone, whether working from home or back in the workplace.

For more information on the national disabled members’ forum, see our equality pages.

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