VODG has called for an urgent shift in the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic to be more inclusive of all groups using social care services, including those with learning disabilities.
Dr Rhidian Hughes, chief executive of the charity, told AMP’s sister publication Home Care Insight that while the focus given to care homes and older people is “absolutely right” given the significant number of deaths occurring in these settings, it should not be at the exclusion of other areas of support.
“We cannot continue to have a situation whereby disability services are continually neglected from government’s policy responses. We’ve seen that in delays to testing and delays to guidance and resources for supporting disabled people,” he said.
“Disabled people, and the services that support them warrant the same focus and attention from central government. Policy makers must shift its response away from institutions to putting people who rely on care services at the centre of its approach.”
Hughes’ comments follow the release of figures from the Care Quality Commission last month that showed there was a 175% increase in unexpected deaths in places where people with learning disabilities and/or autism may live.
Commenting on the figures, Hughes said: “This demonstrates the structural inequities at work. We must measure all lives lost. It is only through the consistent routine reporting and publication of data that the necessary intelligence to help inform current and future service responses can be achieved.”
He said it is “unacceptable” that people must rely on a crowdfunded #EveryDeathCounts legal process to challenge government and its arms lengths bodies to release data about the deaths of disabled people.
“This information is in the public interest and should have been released as soon as it was available,” he said.
“It matters because everyone’s life matters. People with a learning disability already face huge health inequalities. They are likely to die around 20 years before the rest of the population and that’s a result of unequal access to healthcare over many years, well before COVID-19 arrived.”