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The unequal impact of coronavirus

Steven McGurk
Steven McGurk
14th September 2020

This morning, Community NEC member Steven McGurk delivered a speech to TUC congress on the unequal impact of coronavirus on disabled people.

You can read his speech here:

COVID-19 does not affect all population groups equally. And disabled people have been particularly affected. More than 22,000 disabled people died from Coronavirus in the first 3 months of this pandemic.

Because of the greater risk from COVID, many disabled people were asked to shield- not to leave our homes, at any time, for any reason. Even now, when these restrictions have eased, many disabled people feel unsafe and have not been able to return to the workplace, hospitality settings or shops. In the peak of the pandemic, disabled people were 3 times more likely than non-disabled people to say they felt very unsafe when outside their home.

Furthermore, many disabled people are missing out on crucial medical treatment because of the pandemic- in July, a quarter of disabled people were missing out on medical treatment for one or more of their conditions. This is frightening.

And whilst at home disabled people are particularly vulnerable to domestic violence. Victims of abuse will be spending extended periods of time with an abuser. Disabled women are twice as likely to experience domestic abuse as non-disabled women.  

And on top of this- the effects of social isolation have been particularly devastating for disabled people.

Disabled people are feeling lonely, isolated, scared and anxious.

Disability is just one of the lines that cut across our population dividing us into the haves and the have nots.

But now is the time for change. As a trade union movement, we must stand together to promote equality in our plans for recovery and act now to tackle structural inequalities. We must demand this from government. The status quo is just not good enough.

That means building institutions that are powerfully inclusive, a zero-tolerance attitude to discrimination and taking action to protect victims of domestic violence. It means a decent wage and decent work for everyone, and opening access to all kinds of work to everyone.

Just as the pandemic exacerbated and brought our inequalities to the fore, brave policy making can create change that fundamentally reshapes our economy and our society, making it fairer, kinder, and stronger.

Community has a long tradition of representing disabled workers. Find out more about our work here.

Read our coronavirus guidance for disabled workers here. 

Join us today.