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As we come to the end of Learning Disability Week, where we have been celebrating the importance of friendship at this challenging time for our country and the world with Covid-19, it has been wonderful to see people sharing stories of how they have stayed in touch with friends and loved ones and supported each other.

I want to thank everyone with a learning disability, their family members and care staff for the incredible effort and sacrifices that you have made over the last few months

As the new Shadow Minister for Disabled People, and as a person who has needed to shield, I have been listening carefully to what disabled people, their families, carers and organisations have been saying, doing everything I can to hold the government to account and improve support for people.

The last 3 months have been incredibly hard, with disabled people and their families facing isolation, anxiety about meeting basic needs like getting shopping and medicine, and of course hugely concerned about the dangers of getting conoravirus and being able to access hospital treatment if needed.

Whilst for many people, with most shops now open, life is getting a bit more normal, over 2 million people- both disabled people and people with long term health conditions, are still shielding. For people with a learning disability, many living in supported living, they are still not able to see their friends and family members as much as they would like. The need for social distancing, and new policies around wearing face coverings on transport and in hospitals all make this a confusing and difficult time.

Many people with a learning disability have died from Covid-19. We need to understand why that happened- whether the government and the NHS failed to support people, and what we need to change to make sure that mistakes are not repeated.

Whilst it looks like we will have to learn to live with Covid-19, what we cannot live with is the lack of financial support from the government for social care and our incredible care workers, discrimination that may have taken place against disabled people through use of things Do Not Resuscitate Orders (DNACPR), or the lack of testing for Covid that has been made available to people with a learning disability, placing them at risk.

I, and my colleagues in the Labour Party, will do all we can to ensure that people with a learning disability, disabled people more widely, their families and carers are not forgotten, and that the government supports people as we move out of lockdown.

I hope you have enjoyed Learning Disability Week, and been able to both be in touch with friends old and new. And if you and your family are still shielding, thank you for all you are doing to stay safe and well.

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