Coronavirus: information and updates

Our response to coronavirus

The quick read

  • 169,367 views of our coronavirus online help and advice pages. 92% of users found this content helpful.
  • 1,179 disabled people contacted our helpline for coronavirus support between March and August 2020.
  • 30,000 people signed our open letter to the Prime Minister, calling on the government to include disabled people in their coronavirus response and recovery plans.
  • We worked with supermarkets to ensure disabled people had access to food and essentials throughout the pandemic.
  • 15 disabled storytellers shared their lockdown experiences through our media work.

Keeping services running

We made it our priority to keep all our services running throughout the pandemic. So we started delivering them digitally or by phone. This meant we could expand services and offer them to people in parts of the UK we hadn’t worked in before. We could also now work with people who found travelling or busy locations a barrier.

However, moving away from face-to-face services brought challenges. We did reach a slightly lower number of people in certain groups – for example, those who face digital exclusion and don’t have access to the internet or data, people with communications barriers, or those whose circumstances meant we couldn’t support them online or by phone. We’re aware of these issues and are working hard to address them.

Melanie’s story

Melanie is 48, disabled and mother to 10-year-old Morgan who has been on a diagnosis pathway for suspected autism since 2019. Melanie completed Scope’s parents support programme Navigate in 2019. Since the start of the pandemic, she has also been supported by our Parents Connect service.

“Without a diagnosis for Morgan, I can’t get that extra support, but home-schooling has been pushing me to the brink. I get very lonely as a parent in lockdown. The hardest thing, other than being alone, is I needed support as a parent. I needed to find a place where I could relate to someone. So, I went back to Scope to see if there was any other support available, and that’s how I found out about Parents Connect.

Just seeing other parents’ faces on the screen, knowing we have something in common aside from the pandemic - we all have children that need help. After so much isolation, it brightened me up so much. Now I can have new people to make a connection with. There’s a Facebook group for people in the course to socialise, and in Zoom we’ve been using the chat where we send little messages of support to each other.

One particular activity was talking about support and relationships. Going through the process made me realise there are sources and friends I wasn’t tapping in to.”

Supporting disabled people

The world has changed dramatically over the past year. With so much new information out there – from TV, newspapers, social media, government guidelines – it’s been hard to know where to turn for reliable guidance.

Our information and advice services have been a vital source of support for disabled people and their families. We’ve been there for people with everything from dealing with unemployment to understanding their rights in the workplace, financial support to securing supermarket delivery slots.

We published and regularly updated 27 online pages about coronavirus, lockdown and lockdown easing. Overall, these pages were viewed 169,367 times over the past year, with food and essentials being the most popular topic. Around 92% of users found our content helpful.

At the beginning of the first lockdown, enquiries about Covid-19 made up 80% of all calls to our helpline. Lockdown and shielding were the most common topics, followed by advice on employment, food and essentials, benefits, and social distancing and protection.

Between March and August 2020, there were 1,179 enquiries to our helpline about coronavirus, and 711 where coronavirus or related issues were mentioned. This made up 12% of all calls to our helpline.

Access to food and essentials

When the lockdown began, many disabled people found themselves struggling to get food and essentials. We relentlessly lobbied the government to find solutions and made sure major supermarkets knew the issues disabled people were facing.

Following our campaigning, the government provided us, and several other charities, with access to priority slots, which we could then allocate to disabled customers who contacted our helpline.

Calum's story

"I’ve been shielding for the past year due to problems with my immune system and a chronic lung condition. This left me unable to go to shops or meet others indoors.

When the first lockdown started, it was difficult to secure an online delivery slot to get food and essentials delivered. Some stores had a 3-4 week waiting list. I was relying on friends and family to drop off food and essentials when they could.

Scope getting me a Tesco priority slot has given me independence to get shopping in a safe way without needing help from others.


Campaigning for change

We launched our We Won’t Be Forgotten campaign, calling on the government to include disabled people in their coronavirus response and recovery plans.

In May last year, we produced ‘The Disability Report’ detailing the issues disabled people experienced during the pandemic. Our campaigners helped share the report with their MPs across 582 constituencies. We also delivered an open letter to the Prime Minister, which was signed by 30,000 people. And, almost 1 year on from the outbreak of Covid-19, 15,000 of our campaigners asked their MPs to call for an emergency package of support for disabled people.

As a result, we’ve seen government and policymakers take action. MPs raised questions in parliament, bringing issues from The Disability Report to the government’s attention. Our open letter received support from the Shadow Cabinet and a response from the Prime Minister. We worked with 15 disabled storytellers who shared their experiences through the media.

Their stories helped challenge public perceptions, change the conversation and deepen public awareness of the issues disabled people face.

Henry and Angela's story

"My wife and I are both totally blind. Since last February we have not ventured beyond our garden gate.

We have tried to explain to numerous concerned friends and neighbours how social distancing rules affect our inability to go out into the community with our long canes or sighted assistance. Politicians and the media do not appear to understand the impact of social distancing rules relating to visually.

We were delighted to hear the lady from Scope highlighting this point on National Radio as we feel visually impaired people who live alone have been forgotten.

Henry and Angela, Cumbria
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