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ONS reveals impact of Covid-19 pandemic on disabled community

A volunteer (L) helps a physically chall

Twice as many disabled people than non-disabled people have reported that the coronavirus pandemic is making their mental health worse, according to new data.

The findings from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed that 41% of disabled people reported in September that the pandemic is affecting their mental wellbeing, versus 20% of non-disabled people.

They were also more likely to feel lonely (45% compared with 32%), feel like a burden on others (24% compared with 8%) or have no one to talk to about their worries (24% versus 12%).

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The ONS analysis also highlighted inequalities in healthcare, with 50% of disabled people who were receiving medical care before the pandemic began, indicating that they were either currently receiving treatment for only some of their conditions, or that there treatment had been cancelled or not started.

This compares to less than three in 10 (27%) non-disabled people reporting the same issues.

Over 45% of those disabled people who had reported receiving a reduced level of treatment or had their treatment cancelled in September 2020 reported that they felt their health had worsened in this time; in July 2020 this proportion was one-quarter (25%).

And well-being ratings of disabled people remained poorer in September 2020, compared with a similar period prior to the coronavirus pandemic; almost half (47%) of disabled people reported high anxiety (a score of six out of 10 or higher) in September 2020 compared with less than a third (29%) of non-disabled people.

The ONS analysed 1,573 responses from adults in Britain to its opinions and lifestyle survey, and research commissioned by the Cabinet Office disability unit.

David Ainslie, a principle research officer for ONS said: “Our analysis from September shows that as many disabled people were worried about the impacts of the pandemic on their lives as had been the case in April.

“A particular issue for disabled people was the impact on their health among those who were not receiving the same level of medical care as they had before the pandemic. This was a different picture from the experience of non-disabled people during the coronavirus pandemic.”

Responding to the data, Jackie O’Sullivan, executive director of Communications, Advocay and Activism at the learning disability charity Mencap, said: “It’s shocking that disabled people are twice as likely as non-disabled people to report that the coronavirus pandemic is making their mental health worse, and that one in ten worry their life will never return to normal.

“Disabled people have been left to struggle without support when they have needed it most. During the pandemic, there have been cuts to vital social care services, a lack of accessible government information and difficulties accessing healthcare. In some cases, disabled people have had inappropriate ‘Do Not Attempt CPR’ notices placed on their medical records.

“The coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately hit disabled people and it’s no wonder they feel abandoned during this crisis. The government must step up and give the support disabled people need if we are to avoid turning back the clock on their rights and life chances. This means providing an emergency injection of funding to social care so that vital support services can reopen safely and easy-read information so that everyone, including people with a learning disability, can understand the rules.”

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Alex Douglas

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