A new survey from Inclusion Scotland shows many disabled Scots feel they have to shield but do not feel supported
Disabled people shielding from Covid-19 feel abandoned, new charity research has shown.
On the day of the announcement of new Scottish Government guidance on loosening the lockdown restrictions, Inclusion Scotland has published new evidence that disabled Scots shielding from Covid-19 are still not getting the vital support that they need to access food, medicine and other essentials.
The charity’s recent survey of disabled people across Scotland uncovered particular difficulties experienced by disabled Scots without an official letter telling them to shield, who still need to shield because of their high risk from the virus, or because they cannot follow physical distancing rules due to the nature of their impairment.
Almost a fifth of survey respondents said that they had been advised by medical professionals to shield and were ‘angry and confused’ that they had not received an official letter telling them to shield.
Anxiety among this group was widespread, with some reporting that they had lost out on vital support with food and medicine deliveries, and felt ‘abandoned and forgotten about’ by statutory services set up to support the shielding group. For many this has resulted in highly stressful experiences, particularly in the early days of the crisis, when they were forced to put themselves or other family members at risk by leaving the house to buy food or medicine. Some have had no other option than to rely on foodbanks, while others have struggled to get specific kinds of foods that they require for their diet, describing ‘an ongoing battle’ to get the food they need and some people have reported falling into debt.
While 68% of people in the official shielding group said that they had the right kind of support to help them with shielding, more than half of people (56%) without a letter said that they felt they did not have the right kind of support.
Dr Sally Witcher, chief executive of Inclusion Scotland, said: “We commend the Scottish Government for their commitment to not forgetting about those who are shielding, but our evidence tells us that disabled Scots who are shielding without an official letter do indeed feel forgotten. Today’s announcement of eased restrictions for people shielding is welcome, though our survey suggests much more needs to be done if all disabled Scots at very high risk from Covid-19 are to be able to stop shielding safely.
“To stop shielding safely those who responded to our survey wanted the reinstatement of social care support so they weren’t reliant on emergency family support which may soon be lost as family members return to work; advice for carers on how to support people who are stopping shielding; advice about specific medical conditions and how to minimise risk and maximise clarity about employment rights should those at high risk but without a shielding letter be unable to return to work once the furlough scheme ends, or if called upon to do so by their employer.”