Skip to main content

BASW England joins calls for people with learning disabilities to be given vaccine priority status

Government needs to recognise a range of different needs, not just clinical ones

Bindmans LLP has sent an urgent legal letter to Matt Hancock, requesting that individuals with learning disabilities be granted priority access to the Covid-19 vaccine on an equal basis with other highly vulnerable adults.

The British Association of Social Workers has joined other civil society organisations in calling for this change to be made.

Whilst individuals with severe and profound learning disabilities are on the priority vaccine list, autistic children and adults do not fit into this category nor do people with moderate learning disabilities, which is why the Government needs to recognise a range of different needs – not just clinical ones. 

The current priority list does not acknowledge that people with learning disabilities died disproportionately at a younger age than the general population between March and July. 

BASW England is also calling for a Government initiative to address false information around the vaccine, and provide support to people with learning disabilities and autistic people through readily accessible and clear information to help people and families make informed decisions.

Research conducted by Dimensions, a support provider for people with learning disabilities and autism, found that 97% of people with learning disabilities and autistic people felt the government needed to do more during the pandemic to address their specific needs. 

Prioritising people with learning disabilities and autistic people would mean that those in care settings could receive visits, an important part of a person’s support and care. 

This supports BASW England’s #TestAccessRights campaign, which calls for social workers and families to be tested and given access to the people whose rights they champion and protect.

A self-advocate from ‘Lewisham Speaking Up’ said: “People with learning disabilities should be given priority. We are always left out of things, I really think we should be up there, we are human as well. It is about having the choice of whether to take the vaccine or not, the choice is the most important thing. It should not be mandatory for people with a learning disability to have the vaccine”

Learning Disability England Representative Body Co-Chairs said: "Our proposal is straightforward. Put adults with learning disabilities of all ages registered with GPs as one of the most urgent priorities for COVID-19 vaccinations. An equal priority are people who are in regular, close contact with the person, including family and paid workers. This will save lives amongst a group of people who already experience considerable health inequalities and have been disproportionately hit by COVID-19" 

Jackie O'Sullivan, Executive Director of Communication, Advocacy & Activism at learning disability charity Mencap, said: “People with a learning disability deserve to be prioritised for the vaccine. Their life expectancy is over 20 years lower and they are up to six times more likely to die from COVID than the rest of the population.

“Throughout the pandemic people with a learning disability have faced shocking discrimination. They have been subjected to blanket Do Not Resuscitate notices, refused admittance to hospital and left in lockdown long after everyone else. Lack of understanding of the social care system meant they were the last to receive PPE and regular testing. There is an opportunity to put some of this right by ensuring that all people with a learning disability are prioritised for vaccination.”