15 May 2020

VODG responds to UK government COVID-19 press conference led by Health Secretary Matt Hancock

In response to today’s daily briefing given by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Dr Rhidian Hughes, Chief Executive of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG), said:

“While it was welcome to hear Matt Hancock outline the steps being taken by the government to support care homes through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it is dismaying that the government’s response continues to overlook social care in its entirety – particularly the needs, rights and entitlements of disabled people. The government must recognise that the social care sector 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.

“Just yesterday (14 May), we learnt that in the six weeks between 10 April – 8 May, 451 people with learning disabilities and / or autism – 75 per week – died of COVID-19. People with learning disabilities and/or autism already face significant health inequalities and we are two months into the pandemic and the government’s response still has not adequately acknowledged the needs of this group of people.

“Matt Hancock said today that ‘People who live in care homes are among our most vulnerable citizens’, yet without the lobbying of organisations such as VODG and others from across the disability sector we have to question whether the government will ever come to recognise all vulnerable groups of people within our society.

“Government must shift its response away from institutions to putting people who rely on care services at the centre of its approach. That includes providing the same access to testing, PPE and funding. We cannot continue to have a situation whereby disability services are overlooked and neglected from government’s policy responses.”