28 Nov 2020

VODG responds to parliamentary inquiry Coronavirus: lessons learnt

VODG has submitted written evidence to the Health and Social Care Select Committee and Science and Technology Select Committee joint inquiry: Coronavirus: lessons learnt.

The inquiry seeks to explore the lessons to be learned from the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic so far and examine the impact and effectiveness of action taken by government and the advice it has received.

The VODG submission included the following key points:

  • Government’s response to the pandemic in relation to social care has been one that has been largely focused on some client groups, and some forms of provision, over and above, a wider recognition of the full breadth of social care provision.
  • The government must recognise that the social care system supports many different people to maintain independence in their own communities. Disabled people, and the services that support them, including care homes that support working age disabled people, warrant the same focus and attention from central government. There must be an immediate and long-term shift in the government’s COVID19 response, as well as in its overall understanding of social care, away from institutions to putting people who rely on care services at the centre of its approach.
  • The impact of the government’s failure to adequately address the current financial pressures in the system is reaching a tipping point. If there is a lesson to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is that a full and proper review of the adult social care sector, with a robust plan for sustainable and workable long-term reform, is urgently required – not the short-term fixes that the sector has been subjected to by successive governments.
  • The impact of the pandemic on disabled people and their families has been far-reaching and has stretched across all aspects of life from accessing every-day care and support to employment to end of life care.
  • From the outset of the pandemic, disabled people and their families and carers, and the workforce supporting them, have been overlooked in government guidance on infection control, personal protective equipment, and testing and there has been little recognition of the types of services supporting them. This cannot continue and as we approach the roll out of a COVID-19 vaccination programme, disabled people must be given the same priority as care home residents have in the current plans.
  • The impact of the pandemic on disabled people is most acutely evident in the disproportionate number of deaths among disabled people from COVID-19 as well as reports that disabled adults of working age were having Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation notices applied to their care plans without consultation with them or their families.
  • More recently, government proposals to restrict staff movement between care settings to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 is the latest policy to disregard the impact its implementation will have on disabled people’s services. Lessons must be learned from earlier in the pandemic about the consequences of inequitable policy approaches.
  • The government must ensure the production of timely, accessible guidance and communications to ensure disabled people including people with learning disabilities, autistic people and people with sensory impairments, have the same information at the same time as everyone else.

Dr Rhidian Hughes, chief executive of VODG, said:

“The decisions made throughout the pandemic, as well as those still being made today, are negatively impacting on disabled people need to be put right to ensure these mistakes are not replicated in future decision making.

“Through this inquiry, there is an opportunity for the government to acknowledge how its response to COVID-19 could have better supported disabled people and social care more generally. In doing so, there is potential for policymakers and officials to ensure an equitable public health response is in place as we enter the winter months and a second wave of COVID-19 infections, as well as in preparation for when the COVID-19 vaccination is rolled out in 2021.”