Welsh national disability organisations raise concerns about the impact on disabled people living with pre-existing medical conditions
Disability Wales, All Wales People First, Wales Council of the Blind, All Wales Parents and Carers Forum, Learning Disability Wales and Mencap Cymru call on the UK and Welsh Governments to act decisively to safeguard the well-being and survival of disabled people and others categorised as being at high risk of contracting the virus in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are extremely concerned that necessary measures to minimise fatalities in these groups are not being taken.
In particular we are concerned that:
- The NHS in both England and Wales is already underfunded and struggling to keep up with demand. This means that in the case of a mass outbreak, NHS workers will not be able to provide adequate care for all patients. Reports from Italy, where the pandemic is in a more advanced stage, are extremely troubling. We note that in Italy some people are already not receiving treatment due to lack of resources. The UK Government and Welsh Government must do everything in their power now to prevent similar decisions being made here at the height of the pandemic.
- For disabled people, much of the advice on how to avoid infection (eg self-isolation, social distancing) is impossible to follow particularly for those who require daily assistance and likewise for people employed as personal assistants (PAs) or care and support workers. The UK Government and Welsh Government must act quickly to offer support both to disabled people who require PAs or care and support workers to provide daily support and also to the PAs and carers themselves.
- Many care and support providers have been financially impacted following 10 years of austerity measures resulting in an overstretched workforce. We are concerned about the quality of care that can be delivered when care workers go into isolation or become sick. Both the UK and Welsh Government must urgently put co-ordinated plans into place on how to respond to a shortage of care workers. In particular, care providers must be given substantial financial support now in order to recruit additional carers and be able to offer these care workers good wages.
Taken together these factors lead us to believe that disabled people are likely to face harm not just through the Coronavirus itself but through the general strain on the health and social care system as well as wider societal barriers. The UK Government has announced £5 billion in emergency funding for public services to alleviate the pressures resulting from the Coronavirus.
As organisations representing the interests of disabled people, we call for urgent support from this fund to ensure social care delivery and provision or accessible information and support is adequately resourced in Wales. We urge both the UK and Welsh Governments to intervene urgently to ensure disabled people are not treated as unavoidable casualties in this pandemic.
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