Latest Disability Today article in The Herald – Corona Christmas – a time to regroup

As weeks and months go by Coronavirus is still very much a part of our lives. Whether it is because we have experienced the virus directly or its impact on our lives has been because of the lockdowns imposed by the government, our lifestyles have been changed. This can vary from a mild inconvenience to extreme worry and concern. Inconvenience because we may have to adapt some of our everyday life practices and extreme worry for those classified as vulnerable and required to shield themselves from possible exposure to the virus.
Many disabled people are categorised as vulnerable due to their medical condition and almost half admit to being very worried with two-thirds admitting that coronavirus related concerns are affecting their well-being with loneliness, problems at work and worsening mental health featuring strongly. This is not unexpected when considering that disabled people are more likely to be in low income and insecure work and often live in near isolation, and at even higher risk from the virus if BAME (Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic). The suggestion that poverty, isolation or even early death is in some way natural for disabled people is concerning but it is a fact that after a decade of austerity disabled people are poorer and more isolated which in itself could be a contributory factor of poor health.

Ill health, physical and mental, exacerbated by poverty and isolation is likely to be a lower priority than Covid-19 issues as the NHS struggles to cope with a (potential) post-Christmas spike in infections. Routine but nevertheless important treatments could again be postponed to the detriment of the patient’s mental health. I am sorry to paint such a  gloomy picture as we approach Christmas and I like so many others, am desperate to see my family at this special time but amid great uncertainty, what is clear is that it will be a long while yet before we return to any sense of normality. This is especially true for marginalised groups. Over the coming weeks, shut behind closed doors in more ways than one, disabled and elderly people will be all too easy to forget but we must not let this happen. During the first Covid peak earlier in the year we stood on our doorsteps and applauded the emergency services and a real community spirit revealed itself. We are not clapping now but the need for community could not be more real as we enter winter and front doors remain closed. It is our duty as responsible citizens to show compassion and kindness to others. A simple phone call with a cheery message can mean so much to a lonely person and the offer of help if needed could be a lifesaver. If you are in a position to help this could be the greatest Christmas gift you’ve ever given. If on the other hand you are someone who could benefit from help, don’t be shy or feel embarrassed, there are many organisations out there only too willing to offer help where needed or accept volunteers who want to make a difference.

2020 has seen too many glum faces, let’s brighten things up and bring smiles to as many faces as we can. Let’s make Covid Christmas one to remember for all the right reasons.

Written by Ian Westgate MBE, Access Group Volunteer

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