Today's Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) report, "The Government's response to COVID-19: human rights implications", highlights the concerns it has about the impact of the Government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic on groups, including people with a learning disability. 

Mencap responds to the report and joins calls for urgent Government action to make sure people with a learning disability are protected from human rights abuses and can get equal access to health care ahead of any potential second coronavirus peak.

Jackie O’Sullivan, Executive Director of Communications, Advocacy and Activism at the learning disability charity Mencap, said:  

“Clearly, the Government has had to make difficult decisions that have been tough for everyone, but it is increasingly clear is that people with a learning disability are one group who have been hit hardest. Today’s Joint Committee on Human Rights report shines a spotlight on two important areas: people with a learning disability and/or autism in inpatient units have been at greater risk of human rights abuse during the pandemic and decision-making relating to admission to hospital, in particular critical care, for adults with COVID-19 has discriminated against older and disabled people.

“With family contact cut and CQC inspections reduced during lockdown, families have been terrified about what might be happening to people with a learning disability and/or autism locked away in inpatient units. Some families are reporting that their loved ones are being subjected to increasing use of over-medication and solitary confinement, while others are being denied contact entirely. The Government must urgently implement the recommendations in this report to protect those who are currently locked away, as well as not lose focus on developing the right support and housing in the community that people desperately need to stop admissions and to get people out of inpatient units. People deserve to live in homes not hospitals.

“We have been warning since the start of the pandemic that people with a learning disability were not being given equal access to life-saving medical treatment. Latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that disabled people made up almost six in ten of all COVID-19 deaths. Calls to our helpline show that people have found Government COVID-19 guidance confusing and inaccessible. The Government and NHS England must act to track and remove blanket DNACPRs before we are hit with a second wave – a disability is not a reason to refuse treatment. This is a matter of life or death.”

 Read the full Joint Committee on Human Rights report "The Government's response to COVID-19: human rights implications" online here: 

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Notes to editors

About Mencap

There are 1.5 million people with a learning disability in the UK.Mencapworks to support people with a learning disability, their families and carers by fighting to change laws, improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities.Mencapsupports thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they

For advice and information about learning disability andMencapservices in your area, contactMencap’s FreephoneLearning Disability Helplineon 0808 808 1111 (9am-6pm, Monday-Friday) or     

What is a learning disability?

  • A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability which can cause problems with everyday tasks – for example shopping and cooking, or travelling to new places – which affects someone for their whole life;
  • Learning disability is NOT a mental illness or a learning difficulty, such as dyslexia. Very often the term ‘learning difficulty’ is wrongly used interchangeably with ‘learning disability’;
  • People with a learning disability can take longer to learn new things and may need support to develop new skills, understand difficult information and engage with other people. The level of support someone needs is different with every individual. For example, someone with a severe learning disability might need much more support with daily tasks than someone with a mild learning disability.