Coronavirus Bill: Disabled people in Islington fear they’ll be ‘thrown under the bus’ if Care Act suspended

A picture posed by a model of a man using a disabled access button with a bare hand in London. Engla

A picture posed by a model of a man using a disabled access button with a bare hand in London. England's deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries has said that "many thousands of people" would contract coronavirus as the disease continued to spread in the UK. PA Photo. Picture date: Wednesday March 11, 2020. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Victoria Jones/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Campaigners fear disabled people in Islington will be “thrown under the bus” if the Care Act 2014 is suspended as planned.

The government is seeking to suspend the act as part of its emergency Coronavirus Bill currently being debated in Parliament, which is due to become law in days.

This will free local authorities of their duties to provide social care under the act, unless someone’s human rights would otherwise be breached.

The government says such changes will enable local authorities to “prioritise people with the greatest care needs and make the best use of the adult social care workforce”.

But charity Disability Rights UK says suspending the bill this could leave “thousands without essential support or any right to request support”.

Steven Powell is a wheelchair user with a degenerative spine condition who lives in Islington.

He’s recently broken two vertebrae in his spine and is now on care plan that sees a carer visit him every day and a physiotherapist pop by once a week.

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On the plan to suspend the act, he told the Gazette: “It’s just pushing disabled people under the bus. I get there’s a crisis. I get coronavirus has got to be a priority, but to suggest that the most vulnerable people in our society should be thrown under the bus is nothing short of disgraceful. It just plays into the sub-text the elderly, disabled, vulnerable and ill are burdens rather than assets and should be the first pushed out of the boat.

“Anyone disabled physically or mentally will tell you that – and we are expected to stay at home and starve. To suggest you remove the absolute minimum standard is just typical of this government.”

He added: “I may have to fend for myself. When the food in the house runs out I’ll have to go to the supermarket. I’m hoping there is a system for people with mobility issues, normally I have no problems but if the supermarket is rammed to the rafters I’m going to struggle.”

A Disability Rights UK spokesperson said: “Given the already broken social care system this bill will almost inevitably leave many thousands of disabled people without essential support or any rights to request this support. Rolling back our rights is not good for anyone and in the current circumstances will put many lives at risk.

“Rather than removing disabled people’s right to social care support the government must treat our essential social care service as key infrastructure, alongside the NHS, and as such it must immediately provide the necessary funding to keep this vital service running.”

The government guidance on the bill says local authorities will still be expected to do as much as they can to comply with their duties and the changes are only in case demand pressure and workforce illness mean councils are at risk of failing in their duty.