Foxcroft: Disabled under lockdown are afterthought for government

Vicky Foxcroft. Pic: Lewisham Deptford Labour

Lewisham MP Vicky Foxcroft has scorned the government’s efforts to assist disabled people and the clinically extremely vulnerable during this pandemic, pointing to a lack of effort to engage those shielding people to discover how much support they need.

Foxcroft wrote a letter to Justin Tomlinson, Minister for Disabled People; Health and Work,  to urge him to redouble his efforts in supporting disabled people, asking them not to be forgotten. He has yet to respond to Foxcroft.

She said: “As the Minister for Disabled People, you hold the cross-government responsibility for disabled people and it is incumbent upon you to be their strongest advocate and ensure disabled people are not an afterthought once again.”

Foxcroft became the Shadow Minister for Disabled People in April and has been a Lewisham MP since 2015. She has raised many issues with Tomlinson since including the lack of BSL (British Sign Language) interpreters at press conferences.

She said: “As a minimum there should be a BSL interpreter at national press conferences in which vital public health information is conveyed.”

The lack of conversation the government has had with vulnerable people during the pandemic has meant some of their needs were forgotten about over the first lockdown. Foxcroft said that vulnerable people without anyone to support them need safe access to deliveries of essential items which can include food and medicines. Vulnerable people who are shielding are relying heavily on online deliveries over lockdown and despite Tesco reserving hundreds of thousand of spots for people identified by the government as vulnerable and in need of extra help, it’s still not enough.

The government did increase the funding for vulnerable people, however it is unclear how it has been calculated. 

Foxcroft said: “On Monday the government announced that extra funding equivalent to £14.60 per clinically extremely vulnerable person will be made available to unitary and county councils via an un-ringfenced grant.“

Foxcroft isn’t the only one to question Tomlinson recently in his effort towards helping the community. Jonathan Reynolds, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, asked Tomlinson about the suspension of medical assessments during the outbreak and how many claims for industrial injuries disablement benefit there were on

Tomlinson responded: “Our priority throughout this pandemic has been the health and safety of our customers and staff. This has meant that we have had to suspend face to face medical assessments for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefits, and the on-going public health concerns means that it will not yet possible to restart face to face medical assessments.

“There are currently 5,120 Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit claims outstanding as a result of the suspension of medical assessments. I can assure customers that no one will lose out on any entitlement to payments due to these delays. We have throughout continued to make decisions on claims from those customers who claiming under the Special Rules for Terminal Ill.”

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