Coronavirus and the impact on people with protected characteristics inquiry

Inclusion London response to the Women and Equalities Committee highlights our grave concerns

About the inquiry

In April 2020 the Women and Equalities Committee launched an inquiry into the impact of Coronavirus on people with protected characteristics under the Equality Act.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission and other organisations have expressed concerns that there may be a particular impact on some people who have protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010: age, disability, sex, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.

The Committee wanted to find out more about the impact that Government measures including emergency legislation were having on people with these protected characteristics.

Inclusion London’s response

Inclusion London sent a response to the Committee highlighting our grave concerns about the impact of the Governments response and emergency legislation on Deaf and Disabled people.

You can read our full response here:

Inclusion London response: Impact of Coronavirus on people with protected characteristics April 2020

Many general policy responses that have been introduced are having a disproportionate impact on Deaf and Disabled people. For instance, cancellation of routine hospital appointments, making decisions about access to critical care, blanket policies on visits to hospitals and care homes, and decisions about uplifting the rates of Universal Credit, but not legacy disability benefits. Plans have also imposed limits on daily exercise and closing car parks near green spaces and failing to ensure accessible information on COVID-19, including the shocking failure to provide British Sign Language interpreters for the daily government briefing.

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 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 well being 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. As detailed above 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.