Covid inquiry called out for ‘disgraceful’ omission of disabled people

The Cabinet Office has been accused of breaking “assurances” over the scope of the Covid-19 inquiry by a disabled MP.

The inquiry will look at the UK’s preparedness and response to the pandemic and recommend lessons to learn for the future.

But Marsha de Cordova, Labour MP for Battersea, has called it “shocking” and “disgraceful” that the inquiry’s terms of reference make no mention of disabled people.

The terms of reference, published earlier this month, have been criticised after failing to mention the words “child” or “children”, and making no reference to mental health.

Ms de Cordova, who is registered blind, told The Telegraph: “It is shocking that the terms of reference of this long-awaited public inquiry does not mention disabled people, given the devastating and disproportionate impact of the pandemic, where six in 10 people who died were ill or disabled.

‘The struggles of millions ignored’ 

“I am especially surprised at this omission as the Cabinet Office minister assured me in February that the inquiry would have a specific focus on the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on ill and disabled people. Yet again, they have ignored the struggles of millions.”

Speaking in the House of Commons last month, Ms de Cordova asked Heather Wheeler, Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, if the inquiry would have a “specific focus” on disabled people.

“I believe the answer is yes,” Ms Wheeler responded.

Ms de Cordova added that the omission of disabled people, race or inequality from the inquiry’s aims was “disgraceful”.

“How are people meant to have any faith in this inquiry?” she said.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson stressed the terms of reference of the inquiry do commit to considering the impact of the pandemic on persons protected under the Equality Act 2010, which includes those with disabilities.

Six out of 10 people who died of Covid by the end of 2020 were disabled, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Deaf children had to fight ‘new battle’

Ian Noon, head of policy at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said the effects of the pandemic on the UK’s 50,000 deaf children could have “serious, long-term consequences”.

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