“We’re being left behind” – Over 38,000 people call for disabled voices to be heard on Covid

  • On the day Government announce that all Covid restrictions will end in England, new research shows that 7 in 10 disabled people believe they are being left behind.
  • 6 in 10 disabled people say they are fearful of going out and socialising due to the risk of Covid.
  • Disabled people, families and campaigners were in Westminster today, to highlight their experience of the pandemic, and hand in a petition of over 38,000 signatures, calling on disabled people to be put at the heart of this year’s Covid-19 inquiry.
Claire Reece and her 13-year-old son Hugo hold a heart-shaped balloon as they look at the National Covid Memorial Wall in London.

London, UK, 21 February 2022 – The decision by Government to scrap all Covid restrictions in England will increase fear and anxiety amongst disabled people, according to the national disability charity, Sense, who have released new research showing that 7 in 10 (70 per cent) disabled people believe they are being left behind.

The charity joined disabled people, families, campaigners and MPs, in Westminster today, to highlight the experience of disabled people during the pandemic and to hand-in a petition to Number 10, signed by 38,931 people, calling for disabled people to be put at the heart of the public Covid-19 inquiry.

Disabled people have been disproportionality affected by the pandemic. They have faced a higher clinical risk, reduced care support, months at a time shielding, and increased barriers to accessing essentials, such as medical appointments and groceries.

The fear is that with restrictions, and free testing, set to end, and infection rates still high, many disabled people, and those in at in-risk groups, will feel forced to stay at home, and become more isolated.

According to Sense research, 6 in 10 (61 per cent) disabled people say they are fearful of going out and socialising due to the risk of Covid. While nearly two thirds (65 per cent) say they feel less optimistic about their future because of their experience during the pandemic.

As the country nears the two-year anniversary of the first lockdown, campaigners are keen for the Covid inquiry to begin immediately, with disabled people’s voices at the heart of it. The public Covid-19 inquiry will play a key role in examining the response of government and local authorities to the pandemic, ensuring lessons are learnt for the future.

The petition delivered today, calls for:

  1. A key section of the inquiry investigating the impact of Covid-19 on disabled people and their families, with them being invited to contribute evidence.
  2. A panel leading the inquiry that is representative of disabled people.
  3. The inquiry to be run in an accessible way so that disabled people can participate and engage with it.

Richard Kramer, Sense Chief Executive, said:

“The lifting of all restrictions in England, and the removal of free testing, will increase fear and anxiety amongst disabled people and their families.

“Their needs have often been overlooked throughout this pandemic, and it’s no surprise they feel forgotten, and are worried about being left behind.

“They must be heard at the inquiry. We owe it to them to investigate the decisions that have led to such a disastrous outcome.

“This is our opportunity to learn from what has happened and move forward with a commitment to tackling the inequalities disabled people face.”

Claire Reece (42), from St Neots in Cambridgeshire, is mother to Hugo, who has CHARGE syndrome. The 13-year-old is deafblind and has respiratory problems. Claire and Hugo travelled to London to deliver the petition in person.

Claire Reece said:

“Disabled people and their families have been forgotten in this pandemic.

“The Government did not and still does not take into consideration how many families and individuals are still scared and left without support out there. Government failed to protect disabled people and their families; they must be at the heart of this inquiry.” 

Emma Blackmore, 34, from Bristol, also came to London to deliver the petition. Emma was born with congenital rubella syndrome which has led her to have epilepsy and problems with her sight and hearing.

Claire Reece and her son Hugo, Emma Blackmore and more Sense campaigners stand holding signs and smiling in front of the Palace of Westminster.

Emma Blackmore said:

“The last two years have been really hard for me, as well as many other disabled people. Thousands, if not millions, of disabled people lost their support networks, which causes so many other issues, whether that’s health or social care. We are human beings and deserve to have as much support as anyone else.

“I want the Government to hear how much we really did struggle. We feel left behind as disabled people and it’s time our voices are heard.”

Contact Sense’s media team

Email: [email protected]
Phone number: 020 7014 9384