16 June 2020

New data analysis published today reveals that during lockdown a shocking six in ten disabled women are struggling to access necessities from the shops (63%), compared with 46% of non-disabled men and 52% of non-disabled women. Six in ten disabled women also fear missing out on medicines, compared with 43% of non-disabled women and 37% of non-disabled men. They are also under significant financial pressure, with a third (34%) of disabled women reporting that their household has nearly run out of money, compared with a fifth of non-disabled women (24%) and men (23%). Almost four in ten (38%) disabled mothers said they were struggling to feed their children.

The analysis from Women’s Budget Group, Fawcett Society, Queen Mary University of London and London School of Economics shows that:

  • Social isolation has hit disabled women hardest. 56% reported that social isolation was difficult to cope with, compared with 42% of non-disabled women. A quarter (26%) of disabled women said that they had not left the home at all in the last week, compared with 17% of all respondents.
  • Disabled women have lost support and struggle with daily life during lockdown. A fifth of disabled women (20%) said they had lost support from the Government, and 43% said they had lost support from other people.

Disabled women also faced greater pressures at work. The research found that disabled women who are working from home were more likely to report that they were spending extra time on paid work (58% vs 28% for non-disabled women and 30% for non-disabled men), and also that the work was more stressful (65% vs 40% for non-disabled women and 41% for non-disabled men).

Bethany Young from disabled women’s collective Sisters of Frida said:

Sisters of Frida recognises the significant barriers facing disabled women as a result of the response to the Coronavirus crisis. Intersectional experiences need to be seen and valued. Visibility and policy change is essential, without it we will struggle against even deeper social inequality long after the lockdown ends.

Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director of the Women’s Budget Group said:

The Covid-19 crisis comes on top of cuts to social security and public services that have disproportionately hit disabled women so it’s shocking but not surprising that a third of disabled women report that they have nearly run out of money. But disabled people have lost out from the Government’s support packages: while Universal Credit was increased, Employment and Support Allowance stayed at the same rate. At the same time, many disabled people have been left without access to care services and other support. As we move out of lockdown the Government must take urgent action to assess the specific needs of disabled women, and take action to meet them.

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society said:

Disabled women’s experiences of this lockdown have been hidden from view until now. Yet the levels of disadvantage and pressure they face are immense and amongst the highest we have seen. It is not surprising that over half report high levels of anxiety.

Government must reinstate the duty on local authorities to provide support which was removed under the emergency Covid legislation. Our data suggests disabled women are suffering as a result.

Dr Clare Wenham, Assistant Professor of Global Health Policy, London School of Economics:

COVID-19, like previous outbreaks, is once again exposing systemic inequalities in society, with the downstream effects of response measures disproportionately affecting already marginalised groups, such as disabled people. This research clearly demonstrates that disabled people, and disabled women in particular are more concerned about running out of money, being able to feed their children, whilst suffering from increased workloads and anxiety. The government must consider the knock-on effects of their policy to respond to COVID-19 and how to readdress the additional burden this brings to those most at risk.

Professor Sophie Harman, Professor of International Politics at Queen Mary University of London noted:

The survey results paint a very bleak picture for people with disabilities, but my fear is the worst is yet to come with the easing of restrictions. From specific issues such as face coverings (who can wear them, impossibility of lip reading) to wider isolation to sector cuts and restricted access to services. This suggests an urgent need to account for and include people with disability in all decisions over lockdown easing.

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