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Impact of Covid-19 & austerity on those with a learning disability in Scotland

Lisa Paul

Geography and Social & Public Policy


Year of study:

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 People with learning disabilities (LD) in Scotland were disproportionately impacted by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Those with an LD in Scotland were three times more likely to die of the virus than the able-bodied population, as the socio-economic barriers faced by this group pre-pandemic increased their susceptibility to poor health. This health inequality was only heightened by the National Health Service’s (NHS) increased use of “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) orders on this group, as decades of underspending combined with the Covid-19 crisis forced traditionally caring institutions to choose which members of the population were worthy and unworthy of life saving medical resources.  

It is such discrimination in moments of crisis, the erosion of social support networks, spending cuts and rigid public services that have led to what I term “social-long-Covid” within the LD support sector. I define social-long-Covid as the long term effects of abandonment caused by economically driven pandemic management on one’s wellbeing. Despite there being a large amount of research on the emerging illness “long-Covid”, and research on the overarching impact of Covid-19 on society, little has been explored about how the abandonment experienced by those with an LD is impacting their wellbeing and how they experience public space. An understanding of this phenomenon is urgently needed as we enter a cost of living crisis because despite making up less than three percent of the UK’s population, people with a learning disability make up over a third of public service spending. People with an LD only face further abandonment if the state does not change its treatment of this overlooked group. 


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