People with learning disabilities already face health inequalities as evidenced in research papers with the most recent one identifying people with Learning disabilities 6 times more likely to die from COVID (1)
This statistic is shocking and we have been leading a campaign to get people with learning disabilities moved up into a priority area for COVID Vaccinations.
Our CEO Gabby, has written open letters to both Matt Hancock MP and Helen Whatley MP but is still awaiting a reply. You can read the letters here: calling-for-health-equality
We have been working with our local Authorities and GP surgeries to get vaccinations for the people we support.
On 20th January we held a mass vaccination day in which nearly 100 of our staff and people we support, across 3 boroughs received their vaccination.
“The team at the Recreation Centre near the Royal Free were a bit surprised to see a big group of us turn up, but were very accommodating of our different needs and understanding that some of our clients were there under a Best Interest Decision. They helped make those clients as comfortable as possible (even one of our clients who finds injections extremely distressing and was making administering the jab extra difficult!). I’m extremely proud of all 8 of our service users and the staff that accompanied them today.“ Rebecca, Team Manager
It was a really positive and well organised day and has enabled us all to look towards the future and see light at the end of the tunnel. However only 21% of people we support are eligible in the current priority groups so we still have some way to go.
Our arguments for people with learning disabilities accessing the vaccines as a priority group is that that many people live in shared living with other vulnerable people and supported by staff, or within a family setting which may be multi generational. People find understanding and following the guidance challenging for many reasons and for all the “easy read” it is hard for that to be understood and followed consistently.
It should not matter if the person lives with family, independent in the community or in any kind of shared living with staff support, the existing health inequalities, higher prevalence for poor health, challenges in understanding and following ever changing guidance and existing evidence available should been enough to identify this group as a priority throughout.
Throughout the pandemic government have referred to “care homes” and rightly identified risks which needed mitigation through access to PPE, regular testing and vaccination. However assumptions have been made at national level that people with learning disabilities still live in care home settings when in fact commissioned support has been to provide small group shared supported living and individual flats and outreach support for many years now. This has meant systems for accessing PPE, Testing and now vaccination eliminates this highly vulnerable population.
While local commissioning and services understands and supports the campaigning against these barriers there needs to be a fundamental shift at a national level.
One of our Team Managers Daisy, shares why it is so important to get the COVID vaccination
The Westminster Society is calling for health equality for people with learning disabilities to ensure they have access to regular Covid-19 testing, and that vaccines are made available on an equitable basis alongside people living in elderly and nursing care facilities.
Our CEO has written to Helen Whately Minister of State for Social Care asking for a change in policy – please see her letter here.Read the letter to Helen Whately