Roadmap sees shielding continue until end of March
Care home residents will be able to be visited indoors by, and hold hands with, a single named individual from 8 March, but shielders will be asked to continue shielding until 31 March despite schools reopening, according to the ‘roadmap’ set out by Boris Johnson this week.
The plan sets out key dates for reopening the country: 8 March, when schools reopen and care homes can open up to singular named visitors; 12 April, when leisure facilities and outdoor hospitality may reopen; 17 May when indoor contact and venues may reopen with limits; and 21 June when larger groups and events may be allowed. All dates are dependent on the outcomes of monitoring for vaccine take up, vaccine efficiency resulting in less hospitalisations and deaths, surges in the NHS, and new variants emerging.
The Cabinet Office confirmed that all shielders will receive letters by the middle of March.
Read the roadmap here.
Special Needs Jungle has produced a grab and go version of the back to school guidance for families with children in SEND settings.
People with learning disabilities to be prioritised for vaccinations
The Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations has confirmed that everyone with a learning disability will now be prioritised for vaccination under group 6.
Vaccination priority group six had only included people with ‘severe’ or ‘profound’ learning disabilities. The announcement on 24 February now means that everyone with learning disabilities is covered.
Jackie O’Sullivan, Executive Director of Communication, Advocacy & Activism at learning disability charity Mencap, said:
“This is a hugely welcome announcement, and fantastic news for people with a learning disability. Now everyone on the GP Learning Disability Register can get access to the COVID vaccine.
“It’s now crucially important that everyone with a learning disability checks that they are on the register and asks to go on it if they are not. Being on the register has many benefits and entitles people to annual health checks and prioritisation for future vaccinations, as well as allowing them to get the COVID vaccine and be confident they are protected.”
DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “People with learning disabilities are six times more likely to die from coronavirus than people without learning disabilities. It is hugely welcome news that everyone with learning disabilities can now be urgently protected by vaccination. We are relieved and glad that the JCVI and government has listened to Disabled people’s groups about the importance of valuing the lives of people with learning disabilities, and has taken action to prioritise vaccinations.”
Mencap has easy read guides to the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine, including how to join your GP’s learning disability register to make sure you are offered it in group 6 available from mencap.org.uk.
Covid ‘putting a rocket under’ children’s poor mental health outcomes
New data reported in the British Journal of Psychiatry shows that 7% of children have attempted suicide by the age of 17 and almost one in four say they have self-harmed in the past year. There are fears that these figures have risen even higher during the pandemic.
The figures are taken from analysis of the lives of around 19,000 British children born at the start of the millennium as part of the millennium cohort study.
Scaled up to the whole population, that means that 52,427 17-year-olds could have attempted suicide at some point in their lives and 170,744 could have self-harmed in the 12 months before Covid hit.
Dr Bernadka Dubicka, chair of the the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ child and adolescent mental health faculty, said the findings are part of a long and “really concerning trend”.
Study author Dr Praveetha Patalay said: “Our study highlights large inequality in these adverse mental health outcomes at age 17, with women and sexual minorities being particularly vulnerable, potentially reflecting the greater disparity in the pressures they face, and highlighting the need for support that is sensitive to the challenges experienced by them during adolescence… There is definitely a need to provide more, better and earlier support for young people to prevent their mental health difficulties from getting so severe, but equally we really need to think about why young people today are struggling so much.”
41% of all admissions to hospital for self-harm were teenagers.
The report said: “Age 17 marks an important age before many key life transitions, including the ending of compulsory education and moving away from home. With the ending of support from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) around this critical age, many young people fall through the gaps between CAMHS and adult mental health services, potentially further worsening outcomes at the precise time when support is most required. These findings underline the urgent mental health support need in this generation.”
In 2018, 759 young people took their own lives in the UK and Republic of Ireland.
DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “It is highly likely the pandemic will have put a rocket under these terrifying figures. Children’s mental health is the elephant in the classroom for so many schools and local authorities. Mental health is as much a disability as physical, sensory and learning disabilities. Yet too often, it is framed as a nice to have, or something that can be resolved with a bit of talking and a bit of yoga. The lifelong impacts of poor mental health in childhood are huge. The government needs to invest heavily to reverse this crisis and set up frameworks to protect children on an ongoing basis now.”
Decades of failure leaves half of disabled benefit claimants in poverty
New analysis published by Scope shows that:
- almost half of all people in poverty are either disabled or live with someone who is disabled;
- there are 1.8 million more people in poverty living in a family that includes a disabled person compared with 15 years ago;
- the disability employment gap remains above 40 percentage points for many disabled people; and
- over a million disabled people who are out of work say that they want to be in employment, the analysis shows.
James Taylor of Scope said:
“It doesn’t have to be this way. A welfare system should be there to provide support to disabled people in and out of work, to help offset the financial penalty of being disabled, and ultimately to improve lives.
In the short term, we need urgent changes to make sure disabled people are getting the support they need.”
Read the full story on our website.
PIP assessment recordings to be allowed
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has agreed that Disabled people will be allowed to record their assessments for Personal Independence Payments (PIP).
Responding in a letter to the Right to Record action group of Disabled campaigners in Barking and Dagenham, the DWP said that audio recording should be available when face-to-face PIP assessments resume after the pandemic. People being assessed will have to request that the assessment is recorded. Recording will not be automatic.
In the letter, the DWP said: “We have recently started working with both assessment providers [Capita and Atos]… to find a suitable method of audio recording which we hope to have in place with the reintroduction of face-to-face assessments.
“This will remove the need for claimants to source a device which meets the required specifications to bring to their assessment, as the assessment provider will record the assessment on the claimant’s behalf.”
It adds that audio recording of telephone PIP assessments has been available for some people through Atos since 21 September 2020 and through Capita since 30 November 2020.
DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “This move will help claimants ensure that what they have said has been accurately recorded and taken into account. Over half of claimants who need to go to Tribunal win their cases. This move will help those who have to go to Tribunal to be able to present solid evidence to support their claims, and hopefully reduce the numbers of Tribunals that claimants have to go through.”
Read more at Disability News Service.
People deprived of liberty due to misapplication of Mental Health and Capacity Acts
A new report from the King’s Fund shows that people are being unlawfully deprived of their liberty because professionals are incorrectly using the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) or the Mental Health Act (MHA) according to their role or training, without considering the individual case.
Respondents said the codes of practice for the two Acts and their respective case law were difficult to understand and keep up to date with. The MCA was seen as having fewer safeguards, but was seen as being better for protecting people’s autonomy, whereas the MHA was seen as more restrictive.
Read on the Community Care website.
Lack of tactile paving ‘a factor’ in death of visually impaired man
A lack of tactile paving was a contributing factor to the death of a partially sighted man who died after falling from the platform on to the track at Eden Park station, London, in February last year.
A report by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) found that around half of mainline railway stations do not have tactile paving, which can alert visually impaired people that they are close to a platform edge or kerb, and up to 15% of accidents where people fall on to the track involve blind or partially sighted people.
Stephen Brookes, DR UK Rail Policy Adviser said: “DR UK has been pressing upon the rail companies and train operators that safety is of paramount importance when they apply arrangements and facilities needed to provide accessibility for all Disabled passengers.
“This incident demonstrates that there appears to be no consistent policy on the provision of tactile strips, despite their clear importance to visually impaired people who value the opportunity to travel independently, without reliance on staff. Lives cannot be put at risk by having to wait until such stations are fully refurbished to install tactile strips. The fact that 40% of stations have no tactile markings is putting people’s lives at risk and there needs to be an emergency plan to put this right.”
Further information on railway stations can be found on the RNIB website.
View and sign the RNIB petition.
ESA calls for Disabled astronauts
The European Space Agency (ESA) is encouraging applications from Disabled astronauts for its latest recruitment drive. The ESA is looking for four to six new recruits, and has asked the International Paralympic Committee to assist with selection.
Applicants must have a master’s degree or higher in Natural Sciences, Medicine, Engineering, Mathematics or Computer Sciences, or be qualified as an experimental test pilot, and must speak a second language fluently.
The ESA says that people with lower limb difference or restricted growth who may not have been eligible to apply before should consider applying this time round.
“We’re not looking to hire a space tourist that happens also to have a Disability,” ESA Director Dr David Parker told the BBC. “This individual would do a meaningful space mission. So, they would need to do the science; they would need to participate in all the normal operations of the International Space Station (ISS).”
Those selected would be part of a feasibility project to improve on safety and technical support, with the intention to make ‘para astronauts’ a future reality.
Autistic graduates more likely to be unemployed - ACGAS report
Graduates disclosing autism are least likely to be in full time employment and most likely to be unemployed according to new research by the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS). Autistic graduates are the least likely of all Disabled graduates to be employed on a permanent contract and are most likely to be employed on a fixed term, temporary or voluntary basis.
The AGCAS report, What Happens Next? examines the outcomes of Disabled graduates and provides real evidence of the effect of a Disability on a graduate’s employment prospects.
The report found that there remains a gap in employment levels between Disabled and non-disabled graduates at all levels. At all qualification levels, there are more Disabled graduates employed on a short-term contract, a temporary contract or zero hours contract than non-disabled graduates.
Read the report on the ACGAS website.