Coronavirus: Fifth of disabled people will not leave their homes until a vaccine is found

Sarah Young
·4-min read
Getty Images/iStockphoto
Getty Images/iStockphoto

A fifth of disabled people say they will not leave home until a vaccine for coronavirus is developed, a new survey has found.

Disability charity Scope conducted a survey of 1,115 adults with a health problem or disability in the UK between 8 and 10 July to learn more about how they feel over the lifting of shielding measures.

The results showed that half of disabled people feel anxious about shielding advice being paused on 1 August, which states that clinically vulnerable people will no longer be advised to shield and will be able to visit shops, places of worship and return to their workplace.

Furthermore, just five per cent of disabled people said they will feel safe when this happens, and 30 per cent said they will not leave home when lockdown ends.

One in five added that they will not go out until a vaccine is available, which would typically take years to develop.

The survey also found that 41 per cent of respondents think life will be worse for disabled people after the pandemic, while a third think that disabled people are less likely to be treated equally.

Of the deaths involving coronavirus in England and Wales between 2 March and 15 May, 59 per cent were of people with whose daily lives were limited a lot or a little by a disability, according to the Office for National Statistics.

In addition to the survey, Scope has written to prime minister Boris Johnson, calling for him to prioritise the needs of disabled people, 59 per cent of whom are worried about being forgotten by the government.

The letter, which is signed by 27 groups and campaigners including author and comedian Ben Elton, reads: “Months of feeling forgotten is taking its toll.

“Disabled people and their families have disproportionately faced loneliness and worsening mental health.

“Shielding may be pausing, but for millions of disabled people there is no pause button on their anxieties.”

The groups want the government to factor disabled people's needs into every change as lockdown is eased, to ensure they are not “locked out of society” as the UK recovers.

Natasha Coates from Nottingham, who has mast cell activation syndrome and autism, said she feels like her life is in limbo and that the pandemic has exacerbated the feeling that disabled people are less important members of society.

“Some people are starting to get a bit of normality back in their lives, but those of us shielding are still in the exact same situation we were at the beginning of lockdown,” she explained.

“I had to be careful going outside before the coronavirus took hold, but I did manage to get out of the house. Now, I definitely won't be going anywhere for the foreseeable future.

“The cases are still there, it's not like it's gone. I don't see how it's suddenly going to be safer. The easing of lockdown was never going to be an easy situation but that's exactly why we need clear and concise instructions to keep everyone safe.”

Mark Hodgkinson, Scope chief executive, said the survey shows that many disabled people are worried about life after lockdown.

“Shielding may be set to pause, but for millions of disabled people at greater risk of coronavirus their fears have not been taken into account and they feel overlooked,” he said.

A spokesperson for the government said it is aware that lockdown has been “a challenging time for disabled people and their families” and that it has been doing everything it can to support them at every stage of the pandemic.

“This includes increasing the standard Universal Credit allowance, suspending all face-to-face assessments for health and disability benefits and offering support digitally or over the phone where appropriate,” the spokesperson explained.

“Our priority is that disabled people continue to be supported, with their interests at the forefront of our recovery from the current healthcare emergency, and we'll also be bringing forward a Green Paper and a National Disability Strategy later in the year.”

Last month, a separate survey conducted by Macmillan Cancer Support showed that half a million people with cancer in the UK are afraid to leave their house due to the threat of Covid-19.

Research from the charity suggested that 19 per cent of cancer patients in the UK – around 570,000 people – have scarcely left their homes because they are too afraid to do so, while nine per cent – around 270,000 people – have experienced anxiety attacks or even suicidal thoughts because of the virus.

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