Cllr Tina Valcarcel is the Deputy Cabinet Member for Disability and a councillor in Larkhall ward.
The Covid crisis has disproportionately impacted those with learning disabilities here in Lambeth and elsewhere, with latest ONS statistics indicating that people with learning disabilities were 3.6 times overrepresented in the Covid-19 death rate compared to the general population.
Added to that the figures for all causes of deaths of people with learning disabilities when broken down by ethnicity found that: White groups have been 1.9 times higher, Asian or Asian British have been 4.5 times higher, and Black and Black British groups have 4.4 times higher.
There is no doubt that Covid has affected those with a learning disability in many other ways too – as we’ve heard at the Lambeth Learning Disabilities Forum and in feedback sessions to the Health and Wellbeing Board – support networks have been disrupted, Department of Health guidelines have been inflexible, and we’ve seen Do Not Attempt Resuscitation orders used in really worrying ways by hospital trusts.
The prospect of getting the vaccine has offered hope to many vulnerable people only for this to be dented for LD residents as they’ve seen being missed out from cohorts 1-4. Despite indications that those deemed to be in high-risk groups would be treated with urgency, initial priority went to those living in, and working in, care homes, health and social care staff, the clinically extremely vulnerable and then moving down age groups until 65-year-olds, and then, at number six and five on the list, high and moderate risk adults.
We’re calling for the government to heed the pleas from those such as Jo Whiley whose learning disabled sister Frances has caught Covid whilst waiting to be allocated a jab and Lambeth’s own Richard Keagan-Bull and to make residents with a learning disability a specific priority for vaccination.
In Lambeth we’ve consistently made the argument that LD residents should be treated as a vulnerable group and given the vaccination as soon as possible and I’m delighted to say this will now be happening across South East London and in Lambeth over the coming days. This should mean the threat of Covid is substantially lifted from the lives of Lambeth’s learning disabled residents and their families.
But this is no substitute for the government itself having a change of mind and recognising the need across the rest of the country for those with a learning disability to be vaccinated now before more become ill or worse still lose their lives.
Cllr Tina Valcarcel