I have today written to Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on support for Clinically Extremely Vulnerable People.
The full text of the letter:
RE: Support for Clinically Extremely Vulnerable People
I am writing following your COVID-19 statement to the House on Monday.
I am committed to supporting the Government on tackling this global pandemic. However, I am deeply concerned about the ambiguity that remains around support for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV).
Recent Office of National Statistics data tragically shows disabled people and those with health conditions which limit their daily activities have been disproportionately hit by Covid-19, with this group accounting for 59% of all deaths between March and July. Many of these people would have fallen within the CEV category, so were part of the national shielding programme.
With the national programme now paused, questions remain around proper support for people shielding in local lockdowns. The Government’s own guidance states that ‘If you’re clinically extremely vulnerable and live in an area where additional public health measures require you to resume shielding, the government will write to you and advise you to stay at home and shield’. Will you confirm how many letters have been sent? As the number of local lockdowns increases, transparency around the shielding list and which areas are in receipt of those letters will be crucial.
Your department’s own medical guidance states that it is safe for high-risk individuals to return to work as long as their employer follows published guidance to ensure their places of work are COVID-secure and social distancing can be maintained in the workplace. The Government has said that it ‘expects employers to do the right thing’ and take the necessary steps.
The guidance goes on to say that if you’re unable to work from home or a location outside the lockdown area, you have three options:
- Apply for furlough. The new schemes announced today by the Chancellor did not mention CEV people, even when asked by our own Shadow Chancellor. Will you commit to working with the Treasury to ensure adequate support for CEV people?
- Statutory sick pay. With Ministers already acknowledging that £94 a week is not enough to live on, what else do you suggest?
- Apply for benefits. With this Government refusing to uplift legacy benefits like Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit, what do you say to those with existing claims? Especially those who calculate a loss if they move over to Universal Credit?
You were asked in the House on Monday what your advice to the shielding community was; you did not answer. I now ask you to take this opportunity to clarify this advice urgently, so that CEV people are not once again made to feel like an afterthought.
Vicky Foxcroft MP
Shadow Minister for Disabled People