Coronavirus: information and updates

Prime Minister is forgetting disabled people, risks turning back the clock on equality

  • Scope has united with charities and disability campaigners in open letter to Boris Johnson
  • 59% of disabled people say they are concerned about feeling forgotten by the government
  • 50% of disabled people feel anxious about shielding being paused and only 5% feel safe 
  • 41% think life will be worse for disabled people after the pandemic and a third think that disabled people are less likely to be treated equally

The disability equality charity Scope has today led a coalition of campaigners in an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for urgent action to prioritise the needs of the UK’s 14 million disabled people[1], who have been amongst the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic but largely forgotten.

Shockingly, almost two thirds of people who have died from coronavirus were disabled[2]. The open letter highlights the neglect disabled people and their families have faced during the crisis and the fear that a looming recession will exacerbate existing inequalities. 

Campaigners want the vital National Disability Strategy, which has been delayed by government, to be put prioritised to show how disabled people won’t be forgotten in the government’s recovery plan.

Organisations including MND Association, National Autistic Society, Parkinson’s UK and The Business Disability Forum have joined forces with disability campaigners such as Baroness Jane Campbell, Richard Herring, Sophie Morgan, Samantha Renke and Lee Ridley to sign the letter.    

It comes as new research from Scope, as part of their ‘We Won’t Be Forgotten’ campaign, reveals new evidence about disabled people’s fears as lockdown eases and shielding is paused from 1 August. The charity found that:

  • Half of disabled people feel anxious about shielding being paused and only 5% of disabled people feel safe about shielding being paused
  • 67% of disabled people think the government’s plans for easing lockdown did not take their needs into consideration
  • 56% of disabled people will only leave home for essentials or medical appointments in the next month
  • Almost a third (30%) of disabled people will not leave home when lockdown ends
  • 1 in 5 will not leave home until there is a vaccine or effective treatment.

The survey also questioned disabled people about their concerns about the future. Findings included:

  • 77%of disabled people are concerned about the next ten years
  • A third (32%) think that disabled people are less likely to be treated equally after the pandemic
  • A quarter of disabled people think that the general public’s attitudes towards disabled people will get worse after the pandemic 

Mark Hodgkinson, Chief Executive at disability equality charity Scope said:  

“On entering Downing Street, the Prime Minister made a commitment to launch a National Disability Strategy that would make life better for disabled people. But coronavirus has magnified the societal and economic barriers that disabled people already face and risks turning back the clock on disability equality.  

"Scope’s findings reveal 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. 

"Scope is uniting with charities and disability campaigners to call for clear and urgent action from government to show they haven’t forgotten disabled people. The government must prioritise the National Disability strategy and make sure that disabled people are factored into all recovery plans. The government must protect disabled people’s rights and needs at every turn, through the pandemic and beyond.”

Natasha Coates, 25, from Nottingham has as Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, Autism says:

"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.  

“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. 
“I feel my life is in limbo, anxious about the future and that disabled people have been forgotten by the government. I definitely feel more ignored and that disabled people have been made to feel less important members of society. This attitude was already there, but the pandemic has really emphasised this feeling.”

For more information contact the Scope press office on 0207 619 7200 or out of hours 07843 467 948, or email 

Notes to editor 
We’re Scope and we want equality for disabled people. We provide practical and emotional information and support when it’s needed most and we campaign relentlessly to create a fairer society. For more information visit our website.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,115 adults with a health problem or disability. Fieldwork was undertaken between 8 to 10 July 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

1. ONS Family Resources Survey shows there are 13.9 million disabled people in the UK

2. Coronavirus (COVID-19) related deaths by disability status, England and Wales: 2 March to 15 May 2020

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