Disability Rights UK writes an open letter to MPs ahead of the Coronavirus Act debate

The CEO of Disability Rights UK (DRUK), Kamran Mallick, has written an open letter to all Members of Parliament calling on them to restore the rights of disabled people in the debate on the Coronavirus Act on 30 September 2020. 

Later this week, Parliament will review the provisions of the Coronavirus Act which put in place additional measures to protect people in the UK from the coronavirus. 

Human rights

Despite the role of the Act, the rights of disabled people were removed in this process, leaving an estimated 14 million people with certain human rights actively removed. 

Making up the largest minority group in the UK, disabled people need these rights reinstated during the debate next week. 

In the open letter Kamran explains: “The Coronavirus Act allows for central and local government to remove the rights of disabled people to care and support, education and mental health protections. This is unfair, unjust and moreover, unnecessary.

“Disabled people, including those with long-term health conditions, accounted for 59 per cent of all deaths from Coronavirus between March and July. As a demographic, we have clearly suffered the biggest impacts since the pandemic started.”

There is now concerns from the organisation that disabled people will be expected to bear the brunt of the second wave as well. 

Equality

The letter has been written in an effort to insight change from MPs, allowing them to scrutinise the Coronavirus Act, and asks for an honest appraisal of whether the Act affords disabled people the same rights and protections as non-disabled people. 

Kamran writes to MPs: “I am calling on you, as people who shape, and uphold, the rights of all citizens, to ensure that we have the parity of rights to survive the second wave, and the parity of rights to live, as non-disabled people do, as independent, empowered citizens.

“I urge you to ask the House, is it right that there is one rule of law for disabled people, and another for non-disabled people?

“I urge you to ask whether the House would accede rules which created such prejudice against other minorities.”

The letter stresses that the government has proven it can make large scale changes in response to the pandemic, citing new hospitals that were built within week, millions invested into the furlough scheme and millions invested in finding a vaccine. 

Now, the government needs to employ this same urgency to re-instate disabled people’s rights. 

“The Act, as it stands, allows local authorities to apply to dispense their obligations under the Care Act and to reduce social care for disabled people,” explains Kamran. 

“Alongside the Act, at the behest of the Secretary of State for Education, local authorities are allowed to withdraw educational support to disabled children, and to remove vital protections for those with mental health conditions.

“Parliament now has the opportunity to remove these provisions. It has the opportunity to recognise the potential they have to cause damage for disabled people, whose care can, under the provisions, be withdrawn, at the time of greatest need.”

Care provision

During spring 2020, eight councils applied to withdraw care provision, totalling just five per cent of councils. This shows that there is a commitment from councils to provide the full level of social care for disabled people. The letter calls for the government to provide emergency funding to ensure these councils could match the provision of the other 95 per cent in the country. 

Changes to the Coronavirus Act are key to proving disabled people matter in the UK and are valued, important members of society. 

Finishing the letter, Kamran writes: “I urge Parliament to restore the rights of disabled people. To remove these punitive easements in the Coronavirus Act. To restore the provisions in the Care Act. And to ensure that every child with an Education, Health and Care Plan has it delivered until we have weathered this pandemic, together.

“Let’s approach this winter with a real commitment to do what it takes to support and protect disabled adults and children.”

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