The 2.2 million people advised to shield back in March have been advised by government to carry on with life, but at “one step beyond” their area’s current three-tier standing.
The UK government has been warned that new guidance offers little in the way of support to those who previously shielded, such as food parcels or deliveries, or medicine deliveries.
Working shielders are advised to work from home, and those in very high risk areas are advised to seek alternative safer roles at their existing place of work. The guidance says: “If there is no alternative, you can still go to work.”
Active shielding may still come into play in very high risk areas in future, but this would need a specific order from the Chief Medical Officer. Only at this point would people be eligible for a support package, such as food and medicine deliveries.
Disability groups advised the government back in March that the conditions listed which deemed people to be ‘clinically vulnerable’ were not comprehensive enough.
The lists of conditions remain unchanged in the new guidance and GPs are expected to contact patients to advise them if they are thought to be ‘vulnerable’.
The government says the previous blanket approach to shielding ‘caused harm’.
Disability Rights UK CEO Kamran Mallick said: “It is incredible that given that two-thirds of deaths from the virus have been those with disabilities and long-term health conditions, that the government is not providing robust support and protections for those most at risk.
“Given the virus is at similar levels to March, and we are being told to expect it to rise over the winter, it is astonishing that shielders are now, effectively, being told to be more relaxed.
“The financial provisions for those who cannot work are punitive. Not all employers will make adequate provisions for their disabled workers.
“Although some supermarkets have maintained deliveries to shielders since March, the lack of ringfenced deliveries going forward makes no practical sense.
“The impacts of Coronavirus on individual lives have not changed since March. Individuals on the shielding list should be able to make their own choices in conjunction with their clinical professionals.
“But this guidance doesn’t leave much room for that. It’s keep calm and carry on, unless the government issues a top-down instruction to order people to stay at home. There is no personal agency in that.
“This is yet another example that the government has not yet grasped the basic concepts of the social model of disability – that people need the right support frameworks in place for them to be able to truly exercise their agency.”