Letter to the newly appointed chair of the Covid-19 inquiry

17 December 2021

Dear Baroness Hallett

Re: Congratulations on your appointment as Chair of the Covid-19 inquiry

I hope you are well. I am writing on behalf of Sense with the backing of 35 leading disability charities in the UK.

We would like to congratulate you on your recent appointment to Chair of the Covid-19 inquiry.

The pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for everyone, but for disabled people the impact has been devastating. At the end of 2020, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that of the 50,888 Covid-19 deaths that happened between January to November, 30,296 were disabled people. Disabled people, who account for 22 per cent of the population, made up six in 10 deaths.

This crisis has worsened existing inequalities disabled people face and exposed new issues. From difficulties accessing food and medical essentials, to a reduction in vital care and support. Three in four disabled people believe their needs have been overlooked and that they haven’t received enough support.

The inquiry is a chance to learn from what’s happened and start to address inequalities that exist across society.

This coalition is calling for disabled people to be put at the heart of next year’s public inquiry into Covid-19. To do this we are asking for four things:

  1. The terms of reference to state that the experiences of disabled people will be included within the scope of the inquiry, and for disabled people to be invited to give evidence
  2. A panel to lead 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.
  4. In line with Rule 5 of the Inquiry Rules 2006 to actively consider applications from disability organisations or entities who have a significant interest in this matter to be designated as a core participant in the Inquiry.

I understand that you must be inundated with requests for meetings ahead of the launch of the inquiry, but we would be incredibly grateful if you could meet with us to discuss our asks. We would also be very happy to share our expertise on how to make the inquiry as accessible and inclusive as possible.

Please contact Sense Policy and Public Affairs Manager, Melissa Cradock, at Melissa.Cradock@sense.org.uk if your diary allows.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Kramer, CEO, Sense
Kamran Mallick, CEO, Disability Rights UK
Matt Stringer, CEO, Royal National Institute of Blind
Ruth Owen OBE, CEO, Leonard Cheshire
Caroline Stevens, Chief Executive, National Autistic Society
Paul Farmer, CEO, Mind
Edel Harris OBE, CEO, Mencap
Mark Atkinson, CEO, RNID
Mark Hodgkinson, CEO, Scope
Diane Lightfoot, CEO, Business Disability Forum
Tom Wright, CEO, Guide Dogs
James Watson-O'Neill, Chief Executive, Sign Health
Claire Dorer, CEO, NASS
Mark Lee, Chief Executive, Together Trust
Andy Fletcher, Chief Executive, Together for Short Lives
Amanda Mortensen, Chief Executive, Batten Disease Family Association
Samantha Barber, Chief Executive, Gene People
Scott Watkin BEM, Jordan Smith, Wendy Burt, Co-Chairs, Learning Disability England
Claire Bryant, Chief Executive Officer, Cherry Trees
Keith Sinclair MSc, Chief Executive, Brainwave
Dr Julie Calveley, Director, NAC
Dan McEvoy, Trustee, Dorset Children's Foundation
Louise Clarke, Interim CEO, Challengers
Sarah Pugh, CEO, Whizz-Kidz
Dalton Leong, Chief Executive, The Children's Trust
Gill Gibb, CEO, Tree of Hope
Katie Sparkes, CEO, Flamingo Chicks
Carol Payne, Chief Executive, I Can
Sheila Brown, CEO, New Life
Stephen Kingdom, Campaign Manager, DCP
Kari Gerstheimer, Chief Executive, Access Social Care
Kate Steele, CEO, Shine
Robert Adamek, CEO, Rett UK
Cheryl Ward, CEO, Family Fund
Christine Lenehan, Director, Council for Disabled Children
Toni Wolff, Chair and Trustee, British Academy of Childhood Disability
Parmi Dheensa, Executive Director, Include Me TOO

The logos of 36 organisations who have signed the letter to Baroness Hallet