WHY were so many people forgotten about during the Covid-19 pandemic?

The elderly, frail and infirm. Those with cancer waiting on life saving treatment. Asylum seekers. Women in abusive relationships. Children and young people. Those with severe mental illness.

Too many statutory services ground to a halt when lockdown first struck last March. Bad decisions were made by our political leaders who didn’t take the threat seriously enough.

UK preparation plans were threadbare or utterly incompetent and incoherent – the Prime Minister’s former assistant, Mr Cummings, told us last week.

But for the discovery of Covid-19 vaccines we’d still be in a quagmire from hell. We’ve scientists to thank for giving us hope, not government ministers dolling out botched PPE contracts to cronies.

One of the largest groups erased from the consciousness of public bodies were severely disabled people.

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The daily routine for many people living with profound physical and sensory disabilities is attending adult day care centres and being supported by professional care workers to enjoy the daily activities of life that we so often take for granted.

Last week I asked carers and families in the city to tell me about their experience of lockdown over the last year. The picture painted was bleak.

“When your young adult has no knowledge of what’s happening, and their routine has been broken with no services and their anxiety level is uncontrollable they end up on anti-psychotic drugs. Shocking how most of us lost all of our services for months”.

“Things were opening back up – shops, pubs etc., – after the first lockdown yet our day services were kept closed and so was respite. We weren’t allowed to use our care budgets for our people when we had no services. I asked social work if we could take my son away to a caravan or if they could arrange workers to take him away. Told no. No explanation.”

Carers found it difficult to comprehend how community care services were being paid for over the last year, yet no-one received a service. One mother told me she felt “hung out to dry” and still doesn’t have any support.

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Another parent told me they received no support from social work: “We had one phone call in as many months. Carers centres haven’t contacted any of us, yet they were getting funding thrown at them which we weren’t informed about”.

It’s evident and understandable there was confusion and disorganisation at the start

of the pandemic, but that can only explain the failure to provide services in the short term – not 14 months later.

A professional care worker told me, “I work in a senior social care role. We all felt terrible but weren’t allowed out at first. I was scared going into care homes before vaccination. Felt people were not getting a service as so many staff were off shielding at the start. Some organisations had 50% staff absences”.

As we begin to recover from Covid-19 it is essential disabled persons have full access to their community care services. There’s no good reason to continue to deny any care services.

The latest NHS Scotland statistics confirm there were 74,867 disabled persons in Scotland receiving community care services. That equates to around 10,000 disabled people across Glasgow – with most still missing out on vital care.

What mustn’t happen is Covid-19 being used as a guise and excuse to cut non-residential care services in Glasgow. As light follows day – there will be attempts to slash funding packages for disabled persons. It’s therefore important to know your rights.

The courts are reluctant to interfere in disagreements about the adequacy of care plans – precisely because these are judgments made by professional social work staff and occupational therapists.

That said the courts will intervene in exceptional circumstances – for example, where cuts go against unequivocal medical advice, or where there has been a failure to follow the law.

If you’re unhappy with a local authority care decision you have a statutory right to complain to the council, and if need be the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

Services should never be cut in order to make a financial saving. The 1968 Social Work (Scotland) Act sets out a two-stage assessment and decision-making process for community care.

Two separate judgments must be made by a council, and these must take place in a sequential time order.

First, an assessment of needs must be completed in terms of section 12A(1)(a) of the 1968 Act, and only then can a council decide the provision of services to meet assessed needs in accordance

with section 12A(1)(b) of the 1968 Act.

The duty to assess a care budget only kicks in when a council decides under the 1968 Act that the assessed needs of a person require to be supported with community care services.