'Put disabled people at centre of Covid-19 inquiry'

Maia, 20, wants the voices of disabled residents to be heard

Maia, 20, wants the voices of disabled residents to be heard - Credit: Webster family

A Muswell Hill family is urging the government to place disabled people at the heart of its inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic. 

Maia Webster, 20, who has learning disabilities and is on the autistic spectrum, says during lockdown she was left feeling “low”, “frustrated” and “sad” as she was unable to volunteer locally and see her friends.  

Six in 10 people who died with Covid-19 in England last year had a disability – and Maia’s mother, Celia, said the pandemic disproportionately damaged her daughter’s mental health by removing structure in her life. 

Maia said she missed helping out at Zebra Ceramics, St James’ Pre-School and Avenue nursery in Highgate – meaning her routine was disrupted, making her more anxious. 

The 20-year-old told the Ham&High: “When I was not able to go out I did get quite low and sad, and I also got a bit frustrated.

Celia (left) and Maia (right)

Celia (left) and Maia (right) - Credit: Webster family

“I was really wanting lockdown to be over so that I could go out.  

“Apart from maybe going on a walk with my mum and our dog I couldn't really do anything else and I mainly had to stay in the house and not see anyone.” 

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The government has committed to a public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic in 2022. 

Maia said the experiences and difficulties faced by disabled people must play a key part.  

Maia (left) with her friend Philippa

Maia (left) with her friend Philippa - Credit: Webster family

Research by national charity Sense found that 75% of disabled people it surveyed believe their needs were overlooked during the pandemic, and that they didn't receive enough support.  

The charity has launched a petition calling on Whitehall to ensure disabled people are at the forefront of the public inquiry.  

Even before coronavirus Celia said that disabled people often felt “invisible”, and that lockdown worsened the inequalities they faced.

Maia’s mother added: “There's so many reports and inquires done and then nothing changes afterwards.  

“I think asking families for ideas of what could have been put in place practically to help them is really important.” 

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said it recognises that the pandemic "has been incredibly difficult for disabled people".

“We have taken action to protect disabled people, including prioritising vaccinations for people at risk, £3.6 million to help charities offer vital projects to improve their physical and mental wellbeing, and making the NHS Volunteer Responders programme available for anybody self-isolating," they said, adding that a £5.4 billion investment in social care over three years includes an extension of the established Disabled Facilities Grant.

To sign the petition by Sense visit www.sense.org.uk/CovidInquiry     

Maia and Celia (left) at Zebra Ceramics in Muswell Hill

Maia and Celia (left) at Zebra Ceramics in Muswell Hill - Credit: Webster family