Cllr Christina Valcarcel is the Deputy Cabinet Member for Disabilities and a councillor in Larkhall ward.
In Lambeth, we are proud to stand together with other countries in the world in observing the International Day of Persons With Disabilities, calling for greater inclusion of those with disabilities in society.
This year’s theme is ‘Towards an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post Covid-19 world’, which has been the basis of our Lambeth Together recovery plan. Covid-19 has presented us with extraordinary challenges, with many residents experiencing great pain, hardship, isolation and ill-health over the past months. Unfortunately, the situation has been worse for disabled people- in the UK, almost 6 in 10 (59%) of all deaths involving Covid-19 have been of people with disabilities, even though they only made up 16% of the population at the latest Census.
Council officers have done a large amount of work to continue to support those that are vulnerable, continuing face to face support to individuals and their families throughout the lockdown and increased the level of support offered when Day Services were forced to close at the end of March. The Learning Disability Forum remained active in supporting residents with learning disabilities throughout the lockdown, holding virtual meetings to ensure that the forum could continue to meet and offer support. To be more accessible to residents, we have set up a new helpline for our residents, which is now run by Age UK and is ensuring that those who call can feel supported at what is likely one of the most difficult times in their lives. During the lockdown that just ended, our officers called all those classed as ‘extremely vulnerable’, checking their welfare and ensuring that they receive sufficient support.
I am also pleased that we have introduced a Carer’s Card and a new parking permit specifically for our carers, ensuring that some of the hardest working, but often lowest paid, residents get additional support from us as a Council. Most unpaid carers work approximately 1-16 hours per week. An average cost of parking on-street in Lambeth is £3.70 per hour, which means if an unpaid carer provided 2 hours of care 5 days a week it would cost approximately £1,924 a year in parking. The new permit will be £60 per annum, allowing carers more flexibility in visiting those they care for and lessening the burden wherever possible.
As the Deputy Cabinet Member for Disabilities, I am passionate about ensuring that all our residents can access our services and that we remove the obstacles that they might encounter. I believe that working closely with groups of residents with disabilities or groups that represent them, as is the case of Disability Advice Service Lambeth, we will ensure that we do our best to cater to their needs and improve their wellbeing, especially in such difficult times. I would like to take this opportunity to thank local groups for the work they do, whether it’s giving advice, advocacy, befriending calls or sports- your work is not getting unnoticed and is making the lives of many residents better.
Cllr Christina Valcarcel