Calls for coronavirus support for disabled people

Scope has published a report that puts a spotlight on disabled people's experiences of coronavirus.

  • 35% of disabled people say their finances have become worse since the start of the pandemic.
  • Disabled people have been waiting too long for a welfare system that gives financial security without the cruel and unhelpful sanctions.
  • 1 in 4 disabled people feel forgotten by the government right now.

Scope's research, We Won't be Forgotten, found that one in five disabled employees had their request to work from home, be furloughed or redeployed during the pandemic rejected. 22% of disabled staff were put in an "impossible position" of having to choose between keeping their job or staying safe. It wants the government to give people on the clinically extremely vulnerable list the automatic right to furlough. 

The survey of 1,004 disabled adults by the charity, found 18% had their request to work from home denied while 11% were refused a request to be furloughed. A further 11% were told they could not be redeployed within their company. More than half (55%) said they felt disabled people had been "forgotten" in the government's economic recovery plan.

The government said it was the employer's responsibility. In a statement, the Treasury said: "Employers must ensure the safety of those with disabilities when considering working arrangements, including whether work can be completed remotely, and it is for employers to decide whether to make use of the furlough scheme."

Meanwhile, Wera Hobhouse MP has coordinated a cross party letter to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, signed by 25 MPs from seven different Parties, calling on Government to act now to redress the harm done to disabled workers during the Covid-19 crisis. The letter was sent last week and calls on Government to “act urgently to put in place support measures, such as a Jobs Guarantee for newly unemployed disabled people”.

This follows the campaign launched three weeks ago by Bath’s MP which highlighted new statistics by Leonard Cheshire that show 42% of employers were discouraged from hiring disabled job applicants due to concerns around supporting them properly through the pandemic.

Wera Hobhouse said:

“Last week marked 25 years since the landmark Disability Discrimination Act was passed in Parliament. And yet this new research from Leonard Cheshire suggests that we are moving backwards - we cannot simply accept the disproportionate impact that Covid-19 is having on disabled people in the workplace. “I am pleased to have so much cross-party support for this campaign – MPs from many different parties and regions care about the future of disabled people in our workforce.

"Government has been cavalier about the impact the Pandemic is having on disabled people, both in the workplace and beyond. It is shocking that disability was only mentioned once in the Government’s Plan for Jobs. The Government must now act to put in place measures to ensure that disabled people do not become permanently excluded from employment as a result of the pandemic. This must become a moment to tackle entrenched inequalities, not allow them to deepen still further.”

BASE has been working with other organisations to flag up the lack of support for disabled young people through the Action for Jobs campaign.