Disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) are objecting to the lack of adequate healthcare, the loss of social care support, the erosion of rights – and the ominous attitude that disabled people are somehow less worthy of life.
At the onset of the pandemic, assurances abounded that people need not worry too much, as the virus posed a serious threat only to the old and those with underlying health conditions. These people were “someone else” in messages directed to the “normal” population. Even now that it has become clear that everyone is in danger, disabled people remain more vulnerable, not just to the virus but to the inequalities in the system.
DPOs are particularly concerned about measures in the Coronavirus Act, which limited the rights of disabled children to education, removed the obligation on local councils to provide social care, and allowed one doctor (rather than the usual two) to “section” (i.e. forcibly detain) a person in mental distress. Inclusion London sounded the alarm and ask people to email their MPs over the weekend days before the Parliamentary debate. Over two thousand people did so.
Reports are now emerging of discussions about who should get priority for life-saving treatment, with suggestions that the old and disabled give way to the younger and fitter. Such discussions only happen in a situation where there is not enough treatment to meet the need.
Government-imposed austerity and inequality have fertilised the ground for this inhumane discussion, and unless we step up the pressure, the consequences will be fatal to many.