As England has moved into lockdown 2.0, many leading charities have argued that the Government must learn from the mistakes that defined the hastily organised spring lockdown.
Out of that lockdown many organisation have reported anecdotal and statical data that have shown that Covid-19 has deepened inequalities for neurodiverse people and people with learning disabilities, and therefore it is a matter of urgency that policy address those disparities.
Although, other longstanding systemic problems were brought to light last month by a Care Quality Commission review, that accused many hospitals and care setting of ‘undignified and inhumane care’ through the practices of seclusion, restrains, and segregation – that predominately affected people with learning disabilities or autism.
Learn lessons from lockdown 1 – think through Covid-19 strategy and provide additional funding
The National Autistic Society (NAS) last week submitted an open letter, that was signed by 11,000 people, to the Chancellor, Rushi Sunak, that called on him to use next months Spending Review to support autistic people and their families through the pandemic.
Caroline Stevens, chief executive of the NAS, said that: “Autistic people and their families have been struggling to get the care, support and understanding they need for years… The inequalities that autistic people and their families face aren’t new - we’ve been highlighting them for years. But coronavirus has laid them bare and deepened them.”
“The Chancellor must listen to all our voices and take urgent action, by using next month’s Spending Review to protect autistic people from future waves of the virus. This means investing in the support and services autistic people need.”
Edel Harris, chief executive of the learning disability charity Mencap, said: “People with a learning disability are among those hit hardest during the coronavirus pandemic. It's a matter of life or death that lessons are learned from the first lockdown and people with a learning disability are not forgotten.”
She emphasised that the Government strategy should deviate from the one that defined the last spring lockdown: “The Government must give social care providers the support and resources needed to keep vital services open and enable safe family visits during the second lockdown.”
Furthermore, she pointed to ONS stats that disabled people make up 60% of all Covid-19 deaths, the concerning practice of placing 'Do not Attempt CPR' notices on the medical files of people with learning disabilities, and the need for everyone involved in social care to have access to regular testing.
In response, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson called attention to the implementation of policies focused on the care of neurodiverse people during the pandemic – such as the £3.7 billion provided to local authorities to support the wellbeing of children with special educational needs and disabilities, and the Adult Social Care Winter Plan that has set out actions to protect everyone in the care system from Covid-19.
They said: “We are aware of the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on neurodivergent people and people with a learning disability, particularly given the disruption to routines which lockdown causes.”
“As we move into the winter period and in light of new restrictions, we will continue to engage with people with a learning disability, autistic people, and their families to ensure they are protected from the impacts of this global pandemic.”