Full-text version of my letter to the Minister for Disabled People:
Justin Tomlinson MP
Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work
Department for Work and Pensions
5 November 2020
Our Ref: ZA33132
As we begin a second national lockdown, I am writing to urge you to redouble your efforts in supporting disabled people, many of whom will be clinically extremely vulnerable. As the Minister for Disabled People, you hold the cross-government responsibility for disabled people and it is incumbent upon you to be their strongest advocate and ensure disabled people are not an afterthought once again.
I’m sure you agree with me that the mistakes of the past must not be repeated, therefore I strongly urge you to undertake the following:
- Financial support. Matt Hancock admitted live on TV back in March that Statutory Sick Pay in the UK isn’t enough to live on. Since then the government has done nothing to engage with disabled and shielding people to find out what level of sick pay support they actually need. I encourage you to make the case to your colleagues in the Treasury to increase statutory sick pay and finally correct the failure to uplift legacy benefits.
- Communication. Ensuring clear and timely information for all disabled and shielding people is of utmost importance. Eight months into the pandemic it is unacceptable that accessible communication continues to be an issue. As a minimum there should be a BSL interpreter at national press conferences in which vital public health information is conveyed. I hope that you will work with disabled people, the experts by experience to find a solution.
- Essential items. The Government must ensure vulnerable people that do not have family or friends that can support them, have means of safely accessing deliveries of essential items, including food and medicines. Will you commit to working with your colleagues at DEFRA, UK supermarkets and businesses to ensure there is the capacity to meet demand in a timely manner for home deliveries? This is about enabling all vulnerable people to follow Government advice to stay home as much as possible.
- Mental Health. The next few months will be extremely challenging for us all, but particularly for people with existing mental health problems, and those at risk of developing mental health problems. Do you support Labour’s calls for a Mental Health and Wellbeing Guarantee this winter?
- Local Government funding. On Monday the Government announced that extra funding equivalent to £14.60 per clinically extremely vulnerable person will be made available to unitary and county councils via an un-ringfenced grant. How has this amount been calculated and what steps will the Government take if it proves to be insufficient in enabling local authorities to fully support their vulnerable residents?
I look forward to hearing from you.
Vicky Foxcroft MP
Shadow Minister for Disabled People