Daisy Cooper MP has called on the Government to include more help for disabled people and their families in its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The MP for St Albans was speaking during a debate in Parliament to highlight the need for greater support for the UK’s 14 million disabled people – the country’s largest minority.
“Without doubt, the pandemic’s impact on the disabled has been absolutely catastrophic,” Daisy told MPs. “During the lockdown period, almost seven out of 10 people with learning difficulties had their care packages reduced or cut completely, which the Disability Law Service says is illegal.”
Disadvantaged by the pandemic
Children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) have been “spectacularly disadvantaged by the pandemic” and the effect on home schooling for them and their families was huge, she said.
With reports that up to one in five SEND children are still absent from schools due to infection control, timetables and transport, Daisy called on the Government to produce a dedicated plan to deliver the education resources “they deserve and to which they are entitled”.
She said: “Parents and families are still telling me that they’re struggling to get the laptops and specialist equipment they need. When will the Government get that much-needed kit to every single child, so they have a fighting chance to learn during covid?”
Retaining workers with disabilities
Daisy also called on the Government to pass a law empowering all employers to look at retaining those workers with disabilities who are threatened by redundancy during the looming economic downturn.
“As we head into a recession with the prospect of job losses it’s vital that those disabled people who are in jobs can be kept in them, because it’s so much harder for disabled people and all those with protected characteristics to get into the workplace in the first instance.”
And she warned that those employed in the UK’s “world-leading disability creative arts sector” are in particular danger of “disappearing from public view.
MPs urged to 'lead by example'
“Many of its members fall into a similar category to ExcludedUK, with freelancers having received absolutely no Government support at all,” she said. “Without help, these disabled creatives could completely disappear from our screens, theatres and comedy circuits. They could become invisible in our public realm and debate.”
Daisy urged fellow MPs to “lead by example” and to press the Government to re-establish the access to elected office fund for disabled people.
“There is a shocking lack of disabled voices in the House of Commons, and I say that as an MP with a hidden disability.
“The entry cost for many disabled MPs is far too high and we need a proper fund to be established so that disabled candidates of all political persuasions have the opportunity to stand for election and to represent their communities.”