Committed to supporting the disabled community with Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Justin Tomlinson

In these uncertain times, clarification and guidance is imperative. Speaking to Enable Magazine, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Justin Tomlinson shares what the UK Government is doing to support the disabled community.

From care, income, awareness of disability to guidance and reassurance, there is no doubt everyone across the UK is working tirelessly to ensure we can come out the other side of COVID-19 stronger.

Community has never been more important than now, and this is the resounding message from Minister Justin Tomlinson. Regardless of disability, we all contribute to our communities and, together, now, we can continue raising awareness of disability needs and the needs of carers to forge a new world.

At Enable, we have a lot of readers who work as carers – both professionally or unpaid. Can you detail what is currently in place, or set to be introduced, to support carers during the current coronavirus situation?

Firstly, I want to acknowledge the crucial support carers provide. They do an amazing job helping to provide a vital lifeline for people in need.

That’s why we recently changed regulations to ensure unpaid carers won’t lose out on their entitlement to Carers Allowance during the Covid-19 outbreak.

What this means, in simple terms, is that if a carer has a break in care because they are isolating – they won’t lose their allowance.

Equally if their caring responsibilities change, so for example if they provide emotional support over the phone rather than visiting in person – they won’t lose their allowance.

We haven’t stopped there. This month we also increased the rate of Carer’s Allowance. Since 2010, Carer’s Allowance has increased from £53.90 to £67.25 a week, meaning almost £700 a year more for carers.

For paid carers, we are working around the clock to give the sector the support it needs, including delivering personal protective equipment (PPE) to over 26,000 care home providers and hospices, and reinstating 8,000 former social workers so they can fill vital roles in local communities. This is supported by a funding package of £1.6 billion to help support the adult social care sector.

Under the Coronavirus Act 2020, what would you consider the key points or amendments our readers should be aware of for their care, or managing self-isolation?

Ensuring the highest levels of support for care users during this difficult time remains paramount, and the Coronavirus Act is part of this.

As you know, during the current pandemic there will continue to be increased demand on care services. The Act helps to enable us to focus our resources on prioritising and meeting the most urgent needs, including those of people with a disability.

For example, we are using the Act to provide temporary flexibility in education, health and care. This means we can free up front-line workers to focus on direct support for those with the most complex needs, including those with disabilities, and on the response to COVID-19.

We are working with schools and local authorities to ensure all front-line professionals are able to keep disabled children safe and secure, working closely with their families.

During vital press conferences on COVID-19 it has been great to see BSL interpreters involved. Going forward, how would you like to see more UK Government addresses made accessible to the disabled community?

It has been fantastic to see concern for increasing accessibility going right to the top, and I want to make sure that this continues.

We have been working with the BBC to introduce a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter to accompany the Prime Minister’s daily coronavirus press conference, which is available on the BBC News Channel and BBC iPlayer.

I want to make sure we continue this work, and I am championing the cause to ensure there will continue to be a BSL interpreter in our daily updates on coronavirus.

We are also prioritising looking at more ways to ensure all disabled people can be reached by accessible communication going forward.

This is a stressful, uncertain time for everyone worldwide. What words of guidance or reassurance do you have for our readers living with a disability or carers?

I understand the last few weeks have been challenging and unsettling for all of us.

I’ve seen communities up and down the country have come together to support each other – whether that’s by volunteering to support our fantastic NHS or offering to deliver food and medicine for people isolating at home.

I want to reassure [the disabled community, carers and professionals] that we are absolutely committing to ensuring they receive all the necessary support throughout this crisis.

We’ve already taken unprecedented steps to protect people from unnecessary risk of exposure to coronavirus.

From scrapping face-to-face assessments to mobilising 10,000 DWP staff to provide additional support for those claiming benefits. We’ve also worked with colleagues across Whitehall to deliver groceries and medicines to thousands of people most at risk from the virus.

I recognise the massive value disabled people bring to our communities and our country, and am committed to ensuring they get the support they are entitled to through this challenging time. 

We will do everything in our power to make sure the needs of disabled people continue to be considered and have taken vital steps to maintain key services and support, particularly for vulnerable or disabled people.

I urge everyone to consider your friends, family, neighbours, the elderly, anyone with a disability, and support them. We will get through this together and we can all be proud of the part we play.

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