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Church urged not to forget disabled people as half haven’t seen anyone outside support bubble since pandemic started

by Tola Mbakwe

A Christian charity has called for churches to make sure disabled people aren't forgotten or ignored during lockdown.

It’s after a new survey found 57 per cent of disabled people who live alone have not seen anyone from outside their support bubble since the pandemic began.

The research by disability charity Scope interviewed 1,005 working age disabled adults between 20th- 22nd January.

It also revealed three-quarters of disabled people who are shielding plan to continue until after they have received two coronavirus vaccine doses.

Fiona Gosden is the church inclusion co-ordinator at Christian disability charity Through the Roof. She has a rare bone disorder and has been shielding since March. Gosden told Premier the pandemic has triggered loneliness in many disabled people.

“I've heard or disabled people in care settings, for example, who have not been able to see their loved ones in a close family,” she said.

“I think it's very important that they are put has a high priority [for the vaccine] for their mental health and for their physical health.

“I actually did get Covid a month or so ago, so I'm aware of antibodies, but I'm still being very careful until I get the vaccine next week.

“I will then continue to be careful until I've had the second vaccine.”

Scope has called for all disabled people to be included in at least group six of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) priority list.

It wants the Government to clarify guidance for disabled people who cannot have the vaccine and to ensure vaccine centres are accessible.

About a quarter of disabled people were advised to shield by the Government as they are clinically extremely vulnerable and a further 22 per cent had not been advised to but decided to do so anyway.

Many respondents who are shielding but not considered clinically extremely vulnerable said they chose to because they are worried their health conditions put them at higher risk.

Scope said this group faces months more of extreme isolation, without urgent action to raise them up the priority group list.

One in 20 said they had received all the social care support they needed while about one in 10 said they were able to get all the help they needed from their local council (11 per cent) or the Government (10 per cent).

Gosden told Premier it’s important for the Church to not let disabled people feel left out.

“I think it's important to know who is in your church, who is disabled, and remembering that some disabilities aren't visible, and also in the wider community as well.

“I think it starts with a conversation, starting a dialogue and being ready to listen, knowing that all disabled people's needs are different.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said the Government understood it was a "hugely challenging time" for disabled people, especially those shielding, adding:  "The Government continues to provide extensive advice and support to people identified as clinically extremely vulnerable, with shielding advice in place during the current lockdown.

"This includes access to food and medicines deliveries, as well as supporting people unable to work from home through statutory sick pay or Employment and Support Allowance."

Listen to Premier's interview with Fiona Gosden here: 

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