This week the Senedd’s Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee published its report ‘Into sharp relief – inequality and the pandemic in Wales.’ The report issues a stark warning that COVID-19 has already entrenched existing inequalities in Wales.
As part of the Learning Disability Consortium, Learning Disability Wales gave evidence to the Committee on how the pandemic has impacted on people with a learning disability in Wales. The submission included evidence related to difficulties with the shielding process, accessing food, commodities, and non-Covid related health care, loss of social care support, and loss of employment.
The Committee’s report makes clear its conclusion that certain groups, including people with a learning disability, are being impacted by the pandemic disproportionately.
“During the pandemic, our chances of dying, losing jobs or falling behind in education have in part been determined by our age, race, gender, disability, income and where we live. The virus and the response to it is widening existing inequalities, by reducing the incomes and increasing risks disproportionately for some groups of people.”
The Committee has made a number of recommendations for the Welsh Government aimed at helping those hit hardest by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. It believes that as well as preparing for the recovery phase, it is important that lessons are learnt, to avoid repeating mistakes in case there is a second wave of infection. On the basis of the evidence received, the Committee calls for immediate action, rather than the production of more strategies. Recommendations include:
- Appointing an accessibility lead within the Welsh Government to oversee the production of all key public health and other information in accessible formats
- Ensuring that each major policy or legislative decision is accompanied by an effective equality impact assessment, and an analysis of the impact on human rights
- Immediately ‘switching off’ the measures in the Coronavirus Act 2020 which relax social care and mental health duties
- Improving the quality of recording of ethnicity and disability employment data across health and social care services
- Improving data gathering and publication on coronavirus cases and health outcomes disaggregated by sex, ethnicity, disability and key worker status
- Providing swift guidance to re-opening businesses on physical and communication accessibility
- Establishing a priority grocery delivery scheme for disabled people who are not shielding
- Exploring ways of maximising the income of unpaid carers, including through council tax discounts
- Publishing information in easy to understand and accessible formats about the routes available for pupils to challenge the grades that they are awarded this year
- Running a social distancing public awareness campaign to emphasise the different challenges the ‘new normal’ presents to different people.
John Griffiths MS, Chair of the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee, commenting on the report’s findings, said: “The impact of COVID-19 has hit Wales hard and disproportionately affected already disadvantaged groups in society. We must learn lessons from what has happened and we must act fast to support those who’ve been hit hardest.”
Read the full report here.