Dan Scorer, Head of Policy at the learning disability charity Mencap, said:
“Long before COVID, people with a learning disability were more likely to die avoidably and die younger. This data shows the devastating impact of the pandemic, with the COVID death rate of people with a learning disability estimated to be 3 – 4 times the rate in the general population.[i] And shockingly, if you compare deaths looking at people of the same age and sex in the general population then the death rate could be as high as over 6 times the general population.[ii] The data also highlights the disproportionate impact on people with a learning disability from BAME backgrounds.[iii]
“The government has failed to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens. Decades of under investment in social care has left most people with a learning disability with no support to understand ever-changing guidance on staying safe and accessing testing. This - combined with the closure of the NHS for all but the most urgent care - has clearly had a devastating impact on people with a learning disability, and exacerbated already shocking levels of premature death and health inequalities. The forthcoming inquiry into the handling of the pandemic must look closely at why so many people with a learning disability died from COVID-19 and what should have been done differently."
The full report can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-deaths-of-people-with-learning-disabilities.
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For further information or to arrange interviews, contact Mencap’s media team on:
- 020 7696 5414 (including out of hours).
Notes to editors
i Public Health England (2020) COVID 19 deaths of people identified as having learning disabilities: summary. These figures are based on deaths reported the Disabilities Mortality Review (LeDeR) programme, and deaths in hospitals from NHS England’s COVID-19 Patient Notification System (CPNS), and are adjusted for under-reporting.
ii Standardising for age and sex, the rate of COVID-19 deaths notified to LeDeR, from 21st March to 5th June 2020, was 4.1 times the rate for the general population. Adjusting this for under-reporting, the rate is estimated at 6.3 times the general population rate.
iii The proportions of COVID-19 deaths for people with a learning disability who are Asian or Asian British, or Black or Black British, were around 3 times higher than the deaths from all causes in these groups in the corresponding period of the previous 2 years.
There are 1.5 million people with a learning disability in the UK. Mencap works 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. Mencap supports thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they want. www.mencap.org.uk. For advice and information about learning disability and Mencap services in your area, contact Mencap’s Freephone Learning Disability Helpline on 0808 808 1111 (10am-3pm, Monday-Friday) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.