Emergency coronavirus legislation ‘threatens rights of disabled people’, charities warn

Emergency legislation to tackle the coronavirus outbreak could roll back the rights of disabled people, charities are warning.

Campaigners say the Coronavirus Bill represents a “real and present danger” to the lives of disabled people as it undermines obligations in the existing care act.

Disability Rights UK said it had “serious concerns” about the implications of the Bill on human rights, especially the rights of vulnerable groups, including disabled people.

It fears that it will effectively free local authorities of their duties to provide social care to society’s most vulnerable.

Inclusion London, which supports more than 70 deaf and disabled organisations across the city, said: “Inclusion London is very much concerned about the devastating impact of the proposed Coronavirus Bill on the lives of thousands of disabled people.

“It potentially poses a serious risk and can put the wellbeing of many at real danger.”

MPs are due to debate measures in the Bill on Monday.

Under parts of the bill, local authorities will be able to prioritise who and what type of needs it will meet, rather than being required to meet all eligible assessed needs as is currently the case.

This would help adult social services which face “surging demand and reduced capacity” due to higher rates of staff absence brought on by the coronavirus outbreak, according to the Government.

Its summary of impacts document reads: “In such circumstances, it is crucial that LAs (local authorities) should be able to prioritise care in order to protect life and reach rapid decisions over the provision of care without undertaking full Care Act compliant assessments.”

A template letter, shared by Disability Rights UK for people to send to their MP, warns that the Bill will “almost inevitably leave many thousands of disabled people without essential support or any rights to request this support”.

It reads: “Rolling back our rights is not good for anyone and in the current circumstances will put many lives at risk.

“Rather than removing disabled people’s right to social care support the government must treat our essential social care service as key infrastructure, alongside the NHS, and as such it must immediately provide the necessary funding to keep this vital service running.”

A spokesman from the Leonard Cheshire charity said: “The current coronavirus crisis poses unprecedented challenges. We know this more than anyone, as we continue to deliver the very best social care services we can despite enormous pressures.

“This bill, however well-meaning, may have unintended consequences. The current emergency must not lead to an erosion of disabled people’s rights or support when these are needed most.”

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