A last-minute bid has been launched to try and force Boris Johnson to reverse measures in the Coronavirus act which made it legal for councils to downgrade the support they gave to disabled people – including those in case homes
Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey has written to Mr Johnson demanding he reverses the changes which treat disabled people as “expendable in the crisis”, and which lawyers have said are a breach of international law.
It comes as MPs debate on the six-month review of the Coronavirus Act on Wednesday – where Mr Johnson faces a showdown vote with many of his own backbenchers planning to rebel over what they see as the excessive attack on people’s civil liberties caused by the Covid-19 regulations.
The Coronavirus Act was passed in March, giving powers to central and local government to give Ministers emergency powers to fight the pandemic.
But as part of that Bill, the Government gave local authorities the right to reduce the level of care they gave to people – including the rights of disabled people to access care, education and mental health protections.
In England, local authorities only had a duty to meet social care needs where withdrawal would breach a person’s human rights.
The Mirror understands that Lib Dem MPs will join the rebels if the PM does not respond to their concerns.
In his letter, Sir Ed, who is also a patron of the Disability Law Service, stresses to Mr Johnson that legal advice shows that the changes made are a breach of the UK’s obligations under international law.
He adds: “Polling by YouGov has shown that two-thirds of the public believe that the social care reductions introduced by the Coronavirus Act are ‘unacceptable’. This does not surprise me, given the caring nature of the British People.
“This polling was conducted without reference to the illegality of the care reductions.
“I suggest that the law-abiding citizens of this country would find the reductions unacceptable in greater numbers if they knew they were illegal. Our country is known for its respect for the rule of law. Our people are proud of this.”
Sir Ed asks Mr Johnson if he is a “law abiding and caring Prime Minister” before demanding that he “take a stand in support of the rights of disabled people and to comply with the United Kingdom’s obligations under International Law.”
He continues: “With the risk of a second wave of the pandemic, disabled people must be at the heart of government policy and not be viewed as expendable in a crisis.
“Both from a moral and legal perspective, the reductions in social care permitted by the Coronavirus Act must be repealed immediately”
Sir Ed’s legal advice, produced by the Disability Law Service, and seen by the Mirror alleges at the changes represent a breach the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
While Ministers insisted that it could not b done in a way that violated a disabled person’s human rights’, charities have reported experiencing immense hardship since downgrade was enacted.
Earlier this week, a group of over 150 organisations including Disability Rights UK, Inclusion London, Liberty and Mind signed an open statement asking the government to withdraw the sections of the Act relating to disabled people.
Rachel O’Brien, Policy and Public Affairs Officer at Inclusion London said: “Inclusion London believes that it has been wholly unacceptable for the government to allow local authorities to reduce their legal responsibilities to Disabled people at a time more urgently than ever people need care, support, safeguards and education.
“We have received horrifying reports from Disabled people around the country about cuts to their care packages, being forced to survive off packets of crisps for months, not being supported to even shower, bathe or get out of bed, and parents of Disabled children having to home-school their children with no support at all.
“Ultimately, the incredibly disproportionate rate at which Disabled people have been killed by Coronavirus, with 59% of all deaths those of Disabled people, shows the devastating impact that both the virus and the Government’s measures have had on our community.
“The easements to the Care Act, Children and Families Act and Mental Health Act are clearly in breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, and their continued use will cause further distress, suffering and ultimately deaths amongst Disabled people.
“The Government must repeal the powers in the Coronavirus Act to “switch on” these easements immediately.”
Downing Street have been approached for comment.