Thank you to everyone who has emailed to outline concerns about the impact the Coronavirus Act may have on disabled people. A lot of constituents have raised these issues with me and I would like to reassure you that my Labour colleagues and I have been doing all we can to press the Government in this area, while also acknowledging the need for urgent legislation.
I have recently written to Justin Tomlinson MP, Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work, to ask what the Government is doing to guarantee support for disabled people during the current crisis. I will post a copy of his response on here when I receive it.
I have also today tabled a written question to the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock MP, asking what support his department is putting in place to ensure that disabled people can continue to access the care they need.
My Labour colleagues and I are also pushing the Government for action in other areas which impact on many disabled people’s lives.
Social care services are already incredibly stretched, with huge workforce vacancies even before the coronavirus crisis took hold. It is essential that we are ensuring all workers can access testing and protective equipment to keep them safe, healthy and able to care for the most vulnerable people in our society.
Almost half of home care workers are on zero-hour contracts, meaning they’re not automatically entitled to sick pay. This needs to be addressed urgently so they can stay off work if they have symptoms, protecting both themselves and the people they care for.
In terms of welfare support, I welcome that the Government has increased Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits, but there has been no corresponding increase in other benefits for the unemployed, disabled people or carers. We are pushing for a) increases in Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment Support Allowance and Carer’s Allowance; b) the suspension of all sanctions and a clear commitment not to impose any new sanctions during the current crisis; c) increases in DWP capacity to cope in the current crisis.
While the major supermarkets have now adjusted their store policies and online ordering systems in an attempt to prioritise their more vulnerable customers, feedback from constituents suggests that the system still isn’t always working. We are calling on the Government to issue robust guidance to supermarkets on this.
As ever, if you would like to raise any specific issues you have encountered, please do not hesitate to contact me.