William Eichler 16 June 2020

Disabled women ‘disproportionately hit’ by lockdown

Disabled women ‘disproportionately hit’ by lockdown image

The lockdown has hit disabled women particularly hard with many fearing missing out on medicine, running out of money and struggling to get access to food, a new study has revealed.

The analysis from Women’s Budget Group found that six in 10 disabled women are struggling to access necessities from the shops (63%), compared with 46% of non-disabled men and 52% of non-disabled women.

The study, which was co-published with Fawcett Society, Queen Mary University London and London School of Economics, also revealed that six in 10 disabled women also fear missing out on medicines, compared with 43% of non-disabled women and 37% of non-disabled men.

A third (34%) of disabled women said that their household has nearly run out of money, compared with a fifth (24%) of non-disabled women and men (23%). Over a third (38%) of disabled mothers said they were struggling to feed their children.

Over half (56%) reported that social isolation was difficult to cope with, compared with 42% of non-disabled women. A quarter (26%) of disabled women said that they had not left the home at all in the last week, compared with 17% of all respondents.

A fifth of disabled women (20%) said they had lost support from the Government, and 43% said they had lost support from other people.

The research also found that disabled women who are working from home were more likely to report that they were spending extra time on paid work (58% vs 28% for non-disabled women and 30% for non-disabled men), and also that the work was more stressful (65% vs 40% for non-disabled women and 41% for non-disabled men).

‘The Covid-19 crisis comes on top of cuts to social security and public services that have disproportionately hit disabled women so it’s shocking but not surprising that a third of disabled women report that they have nearly run out of money,’ said Mary-Ann Stephenson, director of the Women’s Budget Group.

‘But disabled people have lost out from the Government’s support packages: while Universal Credit was increased, Employment and Support Allowance stayed at the same rate. At the same time, many disabled people have been left without access to care services and other support. As we move out of lockdown the Government must take urgent action to assess the specific needs of disabled women, and take action to meet them.’

Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, commented: ‘Disabled women’s experiences of this lockdown have been hidden from view until now. Yet the levels of disadvantage and pressure they face are immense and amongst the highest we have seen. It is not surprising that over half report high levels of anxiety.

‘Government must reinstate the duty on local authorities to provide support which was removed under the emergency Covid legislation. Our data suggests disabled women are suffering as a result.’

The power of local systems to save lives image

The power of local systems to save lives

Councils and their partners could do even more to contain the spread of COVID-19 if properly funded to undertake a robust localised system of testing, tracking and tracing, argues Professor Donna Hall.
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