Thank you for contacting me about the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak on people with disabilities and for bringing Scope’s Disability Report to my attention.
Guidance for the extremely clinically vulnerable is that shielding has been paused. However, people who have been shielding will still be able to receive priority slots for supermarket deliveries, as well as prescriptions, essential items and food you buy delivered by NHS Volunteer Responders. Do contact Shropshire Council if you need local volunteer support.
Regarding welfare, the Government acted quickly at the peak of the crisis to suspend all face-to-face assessments for health and disability-related benefits while also extending award periods, giving people peace of mind that their benefit payments would continue. Ministers are protecting the health of individuals claiming these benefits, many of whom are likely to be at greater risk of severe Coronavirus symptoms due to their pre-existing health conditions.
Measures in the Coronavirus Act are temporary and proportionate to the threat we face. It is important that they will only be used when strictly necessary and will only be in place for as long as required to respond to the public health emergency. Local authorities are still expected to do as much as they can to comply with their duties to meet needs during this period, and the legislation does not remove the duty of care towards an individual's risk of serious neglect or harm. The legislation must not be used as cover for negating basic duties.
As you point out, the National Strategy for Disabled people is a key opportunity to enact changes that really makes a difference to people with disabilities. There is exciting work underway between government, disability charities and businesses to produce practical measures that will transform the daily lives of people with disabilities and ensure they can fully participate in society. The strategy will be ambitious and will support people with disabilities in all aspects and phases of life.
The National Strategy for Disabled People will put fairness at the heart of government, levelling up opportunities for people with disabilities. Importantly, while it will build on evidence and data, it will also be based on insights from people’s daily experiences. The strategy will include existing commitments, like the increase in special educational needs and disability funding and careers advice, as well as identifying areas where further improvement is required.
There are also opportunities for positive change. The way many of us work has, for example, changed. Normalising working from home and other adjustments is one way we can emerge from this into a world which better embraces people with disabilities.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.