The Government’s Response to Covid-19: Human Rights Implications

Inclusion London’s report shows how Disabled people’s human rights have been detrimentally affected by government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic

The UK Parliament’s Human Rights Committee launched an inquiry in March into the Government’s Response to Covid-19 and the Human Rights implications.

The Government has taken unprecedented steps during the COVID-19 outbreak and it is important that they consider the implications for our Human Rights. The Joint Committee on Human Rights is scrutinising Government restrictions and legislation introduced to contain and control the COVID-19 outbreak, including how those measures are implemented, and how they could affect different groups of people differently.

Inclusion London submitted evidence to their inquiry at the end of July 2020.

You can see a summary of our evidence and download the full report below.

Inclusion London’s evidence

Sources of Information

This submission is informed by our experience as Deaf and Disabled people. It is also informed by our knowledge of supporting 70 Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations in London which provide front line support to thousands of Deaf and Disabled people in our communities.   

Our submission is further informed by data gathered from our report, “Forgotten, Abandoned and Ignored: The Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Disabled People”, which was compiled using data from our survey which had over 300 responses from Disabled people across the country. 

Summary 

Disabled people’s human rights have already been disproportionately detrimentally affected by the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, across different spheres of our lives. These have exacerbated previously existing structural inequalities that marginalize, discriminate, exclude and put at risk Deaf and Disabled people. The measures taken has shown that when it comes to government policy, the rights of Disabled people have been an afterthought – and the rationing of resources has starkly revealed the way Deaf and Disabled people are viewed at best as second class, expendable citizens. This feeling has been backed up by figures showing that Disabled people make up 2/3rds of Coronavirus deaths, and deaths have been particularly prevalent in residential institutions such as nursing homes where Disabled people make up a large proportion of the population. These figures alone point to the threat to Disabled people’s right to life in the way that the Government responded to the Coronavirus Pandemic.

The measures in the Coronavirus Act have weakened Deaf and Disabled People’s rights. In particular, the suspension of Care Act duties, duties towards Disabled children in education and weakening already very fragile safeguards under the Mental Health Act.  At the same time, there has been a systematic failure to ensure the safety and wellbeing of Deaf and Disabled people in the community ranging from the current inability to provide PPE and testing to a lack of support to ensure people receive social care support they need in the community. There is very little accessible information in a range of format about the virus and the Government’s policies.  The Government refuses to ensure the daily briefings from Number 10 include a BSL interpreter (the Government wrongly states this is the duty of the broadcasters), and there is very little information produced in Easy Read. The lack of accessible information contributes to the feeling of anxiety and abandonment that many Deaf and Disabled people are experiencing.  There has been inconsistent and often confusing information about shielding and who needs to shield. 

It is also important to remember that this situation comes on top of a period of sustained retrogression of Deaf and Disabled people rights, inclusion and quality of life over the last ten years.  Disabled people are extremely concerned that significant public spending triggered by the Coronavirus emergency may lead to new austerity and reduction in public services in the future.   This is why it is extremely important to ensure any future policies at the recovery stage comply with the UNCRPD and uphold Disabled people’s human rights. The UN has already published the “Joint Statement: Persons with Disabilities and Covid-19” in order to provide states with a list of recommendations on how best to ensure Disabled people’s human rights during and coming out of the pandemic.

Inclusion London’s report

The Government’s Response to Covid-19 – Human Rights Implications