A survey of more than 1,000 people has revealed that three quarters of family carers believe the government has not prioritised the needs of disabled people and their families during the pandemic.
The research, undertaken by the national disability charity Sense, also found that nearly two thirds (62%) of carers had to take on additional caring responsibilities during the pandemic after essential support was cut, often with little or no notice.
This appeared to have a negative impact on personal finances, with nearly half (45%) reporting that their financial situation worsened as a result of Covid-19.
Two thirds of family carers said their mental health deteriorated during the pandemic
The pandemic also had an effect on the health of parents and family members caring for a disabled person, with two thirds of respondents saying their mental health deteriorated, while 41% said their physical health suffered.
The challenges faced by carers were wide-ranging, but the most common were: accessing health support (46%), increased loneliness and social isolation (45%), reduced services and support (41%), increased financial pressure (41%), and issues accessing groceries and medical essentials (32%).
These struggles are exemplified in Saeed and Azhar's case. Saeed cares for his 22-year-old son Azhar who is autistic, has severe learning disabilities and epilepsy and needs 24/7 support.
When the pandemic hit Azhar’s care was dropped overnight and has still not been fully reinstated. Saeed says it is now vital that disabled people and their families are called to give evidence as part of the public inquiry on Covid-19.
An opportunity for the government to learn from the inequalities that disabled people and carers face
Sense have since started a petition calling on the government to ensure next year’s Covid Inquiry thoroughly investigates the pandemic's impact on disabled people and their families. So far, more than 25,000 people have signed the petition.
The charity wants to see:
- A key section of the inquiry investigating the impact of Covid-19 on disabled people and their families, with them being invited to contribute evidence.
- A panel leading the inquiry that is representative of disabled people
- The inquiry to be run in an accessible way so that disabled people can participate and engage with it.
Richard Kramer, Sense Chief Executive, said: “The pandemic has had a huge impact on disabled people and their families and it’s clear that any inquiry into its handling, must have them at its heart.
“This is an opportunity for Government and society to learn from and address the inequalities that disabled people and carers face. We must seize it and ensure they’re not again overlooked.”