Written evidence submitted by the Greater Manchester Disabled People's Panel (CVD0034)

Who we are:


The Greater Manchester (GM) Disabled People's Panel is an independent strategic body made up of 14 Disabled People's Organisations from across Greater Manchester (see Appendix 1). It is the only regional city panel of its kind in the UK and was established in 2019.  All members are disabled people and we seek to influence policy to support the rights of disabled people in Greater Manchester. We also scrutinise, consult, and advise the Mayor Andy Burnham and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.


By Disabled People we mean anyone facing disabling societal barriers due to their impairments or conditions and this includes mental health, hearing or visual impairments, learning disabled people, neurodiverse people, and those with chronic illness or fatigue.


Our Submission to WEC:


We submitted a list of issues in April 2020 to the WEC’s call for evidence for its inquiry “Unequal impact: Coronavirus (Covid-19) and the impact on people with protected characteristics”


In April and May 2020, we undertook a Greater Manchester-wide survey to identify the issues facing disabled people during the Covid-19/Coronavirus Pandemic. The evidence from our GM Big Disability Survey Covid-19 has now been submitted to the relevant Greater Manchester Authorities.  The Survey questions focussed principally on social care, access to food and medical supplies and PPEWe are also submitting recommendations relating to Disclosure, Face masks, Employment, Education and Transport based on the lived experience of our Panel Organisations and their members.  Our submission below includes our findings from the Survey and our recommendations.



GM Big Disability Survey – Covid-19:


From the outset of the pandemic, member organisations of the Panel have been working to support disabled people, many of whom have been isolated from information, support and access to basic provisions. The Panel has met on a weekly basis since mid-March, sharing information, resources and inputting wherever possible the voice and experiences of disabled people. Having recognised the impact digital exclusion and isolation would have from the onset of the pandemic, the Panel sought to make Community Hubs more accessible, known and available to disabled people. Throughout the initial crisis stage, when working to improve the situations most affecting disabled people, the Panel were asked for the evidence it had of disabled people’s experiences.


To support the existing lived experience, knowledge and expertise of the Panel, two surveys were therefore commissioned to evidence the impact of the pandemic on disabled people across Greater Manchester. In order to make this gathering of information and data accessible, many Panel member organisations supported disabled people to complete the survey, including over the phone.


In addition to the Panel members widely circulating the surveys amongst their members and networks, the surveys were hosted on gmconsult.org, shared through social media, included in mainstream media press releases and circulated through partner agencies in order to hear from a wide variety of disabled people.


Once the survey was closed, GMCA provided an impartial analysis of the data. The findings of the survey confirmed the Panel’s assertion that people were being disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The survey confirmed that disabled people are experiencing social isolation, reduced social care support, issues relating to access to food, medicine and information, and a severe impact on mental health.


  1. Key Findings


Two surveys were commissioned to understand the views of disabled people since the outbreak of Covid-19. 677 people took part in the full survey and 630 (93% of respondents) of these identify as disabled. An easy read version was also available and this had an additional 259 participants, 60% of which identified that they had a learning disability.


20% of participants of the full survey received a letter from the Government to indicate that they were in the ‘high risk’ group for the Covid-19 outbreak. Of the 80% that did not receive this letter, 57% reported having support needs of which only 19% are getting all of their needs met.


90% of respondents said that the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health.


31% of respondents to the full survey were not at all aware of the community hubs. Accessibility to the hubs varied slightly by impairment with those who identified their impairment as ‘hearing’ having the highest proportion of respondents that found the hub not accessible at all.


A third of disabled people believe that their local authority is not doing anything significant whilst 76% of disabled people are dissatisfied with the help provided by the government. A third of disabled people believe that the government is neglecting disabled people.


56% of respondents had experienced some difficulty sourcing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).


62% of respondents have experienced one or more health visit being stopped due to Covid-19.


A third of disabled people are worried about their housing situation and 37% said that their housing was not accessible or only partially accessible.


Disabled people are less satisfied with their care plans since the outbreak of Covid-19. Prior to the outbreak, 58% felt satisfied or very satisfied and this has reduced to 35% after Covid-19.


2. Recommendations


The survey and report explored the experiences of disabled people during the initial crisis phase. As we ease out of this phase of lockdown, disabled people are at significant risk of being further marginalised and excluded.


The Panel makes the following recommendations:















The Panel presented its findings and recommendations to the Members of Parliament representing Greater Manchester constituencies, elected members and senior council officers as well as the GM Mayor Andy Burnham and other regional leaders at a briefing event on 30th June 2020.  Leaders and politicians have shown a willingness to listen and engage with our issues.   The full Survey report is available here:  https://gmdisabledpeoplespanel.com/gm-big-disability-survey-covid19/


Nationally extended recommendations:


The impact of austerity has undermined the infrastructure that allowed the views of disabled people to be properly considered.  The national picture of austerity has had a detrimental effect on the lives of disabled people on a local level.  Therefore, although the Panel’s remit is Greater Manchester, the Panel has recommendations for the wider national context:



Evidence and recommendations post-survey:




Employees and students, who cannot safely return to work or education, face an enormous pressure to disclose their disability and/or long-term health conditions in order to access support. This has been an issue throughout the pandemic, with individuals being forced to disclose, to receive food deliveries, etc. This has led to Disabled people being seen as ‘burdens’ rather than the environment being inaccessible.


The Panel recommends employers, schools and universities and service providers comply with their anticipatory duty to make reasonable adjustments to avoid the unnecessary distress of forced disclosure.


Face masks


Face masks place D/deaf individuals at a significant disadvantage, as face masks restrict lip-reading and also impair audio quality and attenuate speech. This poses significant communication challenges for individuals with hearing difficulties. Some individuals will also be unable to wear face masks, as a result of mobility difficulties and/or neurodiversity. While these individuals are exempt from wearing face masks, there is a risk of discrimination, harassment and abuse on public transport and in public venues if sufficient information is not provided to raise awareness. Already Panel members have reported harassment in person and “shaming” of disabled people on social media for not wearing masks.


In anticipation of the problems disabled people may face when not wearing masks on public transport, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has produced a flash card for those exempt from wearing face coverings.


The Panel recommends that transparent face masks should be made compulsory in public buildings and workplaces with posters/leaflets to raise awareness of issues associated with non-transparent face masks.  The Panel also recommends a national communications campaign to explain reasons why someone may not be wearing a mask and identify penalties that protect disabled people from hate crime. The Panel welcomes initiatives such as TfGM’s Journey Assistance Card (Exemptions Card) but also recommends the evaluation of the effectiveness of these cards in reducing hate crime on public transport.










The Panel recommends the prioritisation of Adult Education funding and ring-fencing Adult Education funding for those disproportionality affected by Covid-19.








The Panel recommends that the Greater Manchester Employment Charter delivers events and good practice guidance to ensure disabled employees retain work.  The Panel also recommends that the Government, employers and public authorities monitor and publish data relating to disabled people and employment, including before and after the pandemic.





The Panel recommends that the Government reminds employers that the Equality Act has not been suspended during the pandemic and about their duties to avoid laying disabled people off work and look into ways for disabled people to continue to work from home if appropriate.



The Panel recommends that work programmes are required to prioritise certain groups and ensure a certain percentage of clients are disabled people.  Increased rewards could be provided to incentivise work programme providers. The Panel also recommends that Greater Manchester undertakes local positive action to enable disabled people to rise to top of the ‘pile’ of job applications




Panel members have reported that fewer disabled people are using public transport.


The Panel recommends that transport providers monitor use of their services by disabled people, engage with Disabled People’s Organisations and publish their results.




The Panel is concerned that proposed changes in the planning system will affect the use of Design and Access Statements and reduce the need for developers and planners to make reasonable adjustments and to use inclusive design planning processes from the start of projects.



July 2020


Appendix 1:


Greater Manchester Disabled People’s Panel Members

Breakthrough UK

Disability Stockport

Embrace Wigan & Leigh (co-opt)

GM Autism Consortium Advisory Group

Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP) (convenor) Manchester Deaf Centre

Manchester Disabled People's Access Group (MDPAG)

Manchester People First

Manchester Disabled People Against Cuts (MDPAC)

National Association of Disabled Staff Networks in Universities

National Federation of the Blind UK (NFBUK)

People First Tameside

Rochdale and District Disability Action Group (RADDAG)

Salford Disability Forum


Associate Members

Action Together

Activity Alliance

Better Things

Beyond Empower

Bury Society for Blind and Partially Sighted People

Bury U3A

Change Communic8te Bury



Pegasus Riding

Proud and Loud Arts

Rochdale Parent Carer’s Voice



Tameside Autism Group

Trafford Hard of Hearing