CWU Equality Month: The impact of Covid-19 on people with disabilities

Union Matters, Equalities

To mark Equality Month, we will be promoting our union’s equality agenda in all its various aspects. And in this first week, we’re publishing a series of articles focussing on the fight for fairness for people with disabilities.

To start us off today, our own NEC lead representative, Mark Anthony Bastiani writes about the impact of Covid-19 on people with disabilities…

This virus has impacted on us all and we mourn the loved ones we have lost. I would like to focus in particular on our CWU members with a disability.

In some cases, people are not even aware they have a disability, therefore it is so important when safe to, to speak with your GP and to let your union know when you are diagnosed as having an underlying health condition. The more we know, the better we can protect our members.

You are covered under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a disability – if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial‘ and ‘long-term‘ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.

As of the morning of February 2nd 2021, sadly, the Covid19 death figures stood at:

England: 93,816

Wales: 4,775

Scotland: 6,112

Northern Ireland: 1,861

When you start looking into these horrendous figures and start to look at the breakdown, then we see that people with a disability tend to fare much worse.

In a Family Resources Survey, 21 per cent (14.1 million) of people reported a disability in 2018/19, an increase from 19 per cent (11.3 million) in 2008/09. Increases in the percentage of working-age adults (14 to 19 per cent) and children (6 to 8 per cent) reporting a disability were the main drivers of this.

A report by Public Health England & Wales showed that people with learning disabilities had a higher death rate from COVID-19.

The death rate for people with a learning disability was six times higher from coronavirus than the general population. This report went on to explain that, as not all deaths in people with learning difficulties are registered on these databases, researchers have estimated the real rate may have been as high as 692 per 100,000, 6.3 times higher.”

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) provides further evidence of this, reporting that people with a disability make up 59 per cent of all fatalities, with the extra risk increasing among older age groups – particularly among women with a disability, who are 11.3 times more likely to die than women without a disability.

Further research in Scotland and in Northern Ireland give more proof of this link between having a disability and vulnerability to Covid-19, a link which is compounded by other factors – such as income, poverty, housing insecurity and ethnic background.

As we see the vaccine programme being rolled out across the UK, the ‘priority list’ now includes – in ‘Group Four’ – adults with Down’s Syndrome, after they were shown to be ‘higher risk’, while people with learning disabilities fall into priority ‘Group Six’ with chronic neurological disease as their underlying health conditions  – although this only includes individuals with cerebral palsy, severe or profound learning disabilities.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommendations state that many younger adults in residential care settings will be eligible for vaccination in Group Six, because they fall into one of the clinical risk groups such as learning disabilities.

Useful Articles:  

Covid-19 vaccines and learning disability priority groups (

COVID deaths of people with learning disabilities (

Guidance on shielding and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19 – GOV.UK (

Disability facts and figures | Disability charity Scope UK

Coronavirus (COVID-19) related deaths by disability status, England and Wales – Office for National Statistics (

People with learning disabilities had higher death rate from COVID-19 – GOV.UK (

Counts of deaths involving COVID-19 and all deaths by disability status, England and Wales – Office for National Statistics (

This March is Equality Month at CWU and we will be hosting a range of events, workshops and courses to celebrate. See the full programme here (some details to be added throughout the month) and register for our online events. Our first webinar will be Reasonable Adjustments and PPE on Thursday 4th March – 6.30-7.30pm. Details below: 

Reasonable Adjustments & PPE Webinar

Thursday, 4th March – 6.30-7.30pm

Chaired by Ruth Meadows (Wales Region LGBT+ Lead, IR Rep)

Panellists: Mark Anthony Bastiani (NEC Disability Lead), Carl Maden (Acting Assistant Secretary Postal), Tracey Fussey (NEC T&FS), Dave Joyce (CWU National Health & Safety Officer)

Register in advance for this webinar:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.