'Do they ever think about people like us?': The experiences of people with learning disabilities in England and Scotland during the COVID-19 pandemic

Scherer, Nathaniel and Wiseman, Phillippa and Watson, Nicholas and Brunner, Richard and Cullingworth, Jane and Hameed, Shaffa and Pearson, Charlotte and Shakespeare, Tom (2022) 'Do they ever think about people like us?': The experiences of people with learning disabilities in England and Scotland during the COVID-19 pandemic. Critical Social Policy. pp. 1-25. ISSN 0261-0183 (https://doi.org/10.1177/02610183221109147)

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Abstract

People with learning disabilities in England and Scotland have experienced an increased risk of illness and death during the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing on data of a longitudinal qualitative study with 71 disabled people and 31 disability organisations, this article examines the experiences of 24 people with learning disabilities in England and Scotland during the pandemic, reflecting on what rendered them vulnerable and placed them at risk. Qualitative interviews were conducted with participants and key informants at two timepoints; June–August 2020 and February–April 2021. Findings emerged across four key themes: failure to plan for the needs of people with learning disabilities; the suspension and removal of social care; the impact of the pandemic on people’s everyday routines; and lack of vaccine prioritisation. The inequalities experienced by people with learning disabilities in this study are not particular to the pandemic. We explore the findings in the context of theoretical frameworks of vulnerability, including Fineman’s conceptualisation of a ‘vulnerability paradigm’. We conclude that the structured marginalisation of people with disabilities, entrenched by government action and inaction, have created and exacerbated their vulnerability. Structures, policies and action must change.

ORCID iDs

Scherer, Nathaniel, Wiseman, Phillippa, Watson, Nicholas, Brunner, Richard, Cullingworth, Jane ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2098-8074, Hameed, Shaffa, Pearson, Charlotte and Shakespeare, Tom;