Written evidence from POhWER (COV0152)


Background & Context


Groups disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

The UK’s COVID-19 response has been largely focused on efforts to reduce the spread of the virus, however paid little attention to how the lives of people living with mental health, impairment and disability have been impacted.


People living with mental health, impairment or disability have been disproportionately disadvantaged due to COVID-19 because of barriers not fully considered or resolved in the UK’s COVID-19 response:

We have observed laws and standards on safeguarding and human rights protections slipping. One example of this is how DNARs have been set up:

There have also been some courageous actions by local authority workers, healthcare practitioners and care workers who have reported these cases to POhWER, police, ambulance, local authority, local NHS CCGs and Health Boards, Care Quality Commission under threat of bringing their organisations into reputational disrepute. We need greater protections for these workers to be able to escalate and whistleblow accordingly.

The Mental Capacity Act  and Care Acts have insufficient provisions for crisis situations such as the Coronavirus pandemic. Easements on areas related to individual’s rights have further marginalised vulnerable and socially excluded people.

The advocacy cases we at POhWER have observed and managed over the last few months are in breach of Equality Act protections not least the right to life (Article 2 ECHR), the right to liberty (Article 5 ECHR).


COVID-19 impacts & recent POhWER advocacy cases

We have observed some significant breaches of human rights as part of our work which appear to be correlated to COVID-19 as organisations are undermining law or safeguarding measures impacting people with protected characteristics.

We noted a disproportionate skewing of COVID-related transmission and deaths in the ONS data which impacted BAME communities and those living with autism and learning disability. The socio-economic impacts of job losses and furlough schemes will have been felt by lower income households and the elderly.


Some recent cases POhWER  advocates  have been managing have highlighted a few areas where we believe human rights violations have occurred in social care:


POhWER has observed a slackening and deterioration of social care and human rights safeguards across the wider system.


POhWER has been impacted during lockdown by restrictions on what units and locations we can provide our services in, such as closures of hospital wards, secure units and care homes. We have been able to move swiftly to a remote model delivering support to the most vulnerable.


For many of the people we support, an advocate is someone they trust, someone who they know will stand up for their rights and fight their corner. Not being able to see their advocate is a challenge for some people, but we have worked really hard to make sure we can stay in touch with people, making sure they can continue to speak with and have contact with their advocate.


It is the impact on the people who don’t have a voice that really concerns us. Advocacy services are playing their part in raising awareness of these issues and doing their upmost to ensure people’s rights are protected during challenging times.


Immediate Priorities, we are asking for:

In 4-8 weeks’ time:


In 3-6 months’ time


Helen Moulinos, Chief Executive POhWER


About POhWER

POhWER was established in 1996 by our founders all of whom had disabilities and were fighting social injustice and challenges in their lives. POhWER supports marginalised, vulnerable and social excluded people through its’ charitable work across the UK.




[i] Source: Scope, “Family and Resources Survey 2016/2017”. 

[ii] Source: Mencap Research, May 2020.

[iii] Alzheimer’s Society, Key facts and statistics on dementia and other dementia related topics. May 2020.

[iv] Office for National Statistics (ONS), April 2020.

[v] London School of Economics, Care & Policy Evaluation Centre Research Unit, May 2020.