Coronavirus Articles by John Pring

By John Pring on 19th March 2020                Listen

The government is facing accusations that its emergency planning for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic has “abandoned” Disabled people who use direct payments to employ their own personal assistants (PAs).

Although the government finally produced guidance for the social care sector on 13 March, that guidance is aimed at  service-providers in the residential care, supported living and home care sectors, and not at individual Disabled people who employ their own care staff.

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has so far failed to produce any guidance for Disabled people on what they should do if they or their PAs become ill with coronavirus, or suspected coronavirus, or how to plan for such an eventuality.

And it had failed to ease those concerns …… despite attempts by Disability News Service (DNS) to clarify its position.

There are also concerns over how Disabled people employing their own PAs can secure supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves, aprons and masks.

It came as the UN’s special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities warned that little had been done to protect the rights of Disabled people across the world during the pandemic (see separate storyhere ).

Among those who have raised concerns about DHSC’s failure to provide guidance is Baroness [Jane] Campbell, a crossbench peer and independent living campaigner, who relies on PAs for her personal care.

She has written to care minister Helen Whateley, pointing out the “urgent need for greater information and planning” for Disabled people who employ PAs.

She told the minister that she and other Disabled employers of PAs were “feeling particularly vulnerable at this time, without any detailed information on our particular circumstances.

“As we are deemed to be in the highest risk group, I feel there is an urgent need for greater information and planning for this cohort.”

Another Disabled campaigner who uses direct payments and PAs, who has asked to remain anonymous, expressed similar concerns.

She began showing flu-like symptoms this week and said she was originally advised by NHS 111 to “self-isolate”, after she described her symptoms over the phone.

But when she explained that she relied on care workers visiting her twice daily, she was put on hold by the telephone advisor, before eventually being told that it was OK for her care workers to come in as usual, as long as appropriate hygiene measures were taken.

She ignored this advice and is instead attempting to self-isolate without any support from care workers.

She said the information she received could mean that other Disabled people could be receiving care from a care worker who has come “directly from houses of people in self-isolation, on direct instructions from 111.”

She said that Disabled people on direct payments were “having to make a choice between your health and your care, the lack of which will impact on your health anyway”.

She added: “People all over are asking what happens if they need to self-isolate.

“There appears to be no official answer, support or plan of action. I’m in that situation and have had no joy from 111, social services or my GP.”

Anne Pridmore, director of Being the Boss, a user-led organisation which supports Disabled people who employ PAs, and who employs PAs herself, wrote to the director of social services at her local authority, Leicestershire County Council, asking what arrangements were in place for people who employ their own PAs through direct payments.

She received only a standard letter referring her to the government guidance, which says nothing about Disabled people on direct payments.

She said: “It feels to me like this government are just allowing Disabled people and elderly people to die.”

Pridmore has posted a video on social media, in which she explains her concerns.

She told DNS: “It needs to be said. There are a lot of us in this situation.”

She has now been told by the council that if her care arrangements break down, she will be placed in a residential home.

But she said she would “rather be dead with the virus” than live in a care home, while she thought it was unlikely that any home would accept someone in her position anyway because of the risks of infection.

She said: “I just think it’s shocking. We have been abandoned.”

Leicestershire County Council has also failed to comment.

By John Pring on 19th March 2020                Listen

Little has been done across the world to provide Disabled people with the support and guidance needed to protect them during the coronavirus pandemic, despite many of them being in a high-risk group, a UN human rights expert has warned.

Catalina Devandas Aguilar, the UN’s special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, said Disabled people feel as though they have been “left behind”.

She said: “Containment measures, such as social distancing and self-isolation, may be impossible for those who rely on the support of others to eat, dress and bath.

“This support is basic for their survival, and States must take additional social protection measures to guarantee the continuity of support in a safe manner throughout the crisis.”

She called on governments to take reasonable measures to ensure Disabled people can reduce contact with others and cut the risk of contamination.

This should include allowing them to work from home, or providing access to financial aid.

She said: “Many people with disabilities depend on services that have been suspended and may not have enough money to stockpile food and medicine, or afford the extra cost of home deliveries.”

Devandas Aguilar also warned that the situation of Disabled people in institutions, including mental health units and prisons, was “particularly grave” because of the high risk of contamination and the lack of external oversight which could be aggravated by the use of emergency powers introduced to deal with the health crisis.

She said: “Restrictions should be narrowly tailored, and use the least intrusive means to protect public health.

“Limiting their contact with loved ones leaves people with disabilities totally unprotected from any form of abuse or neglect in institutions.”

She said governments should be reassuring Disabled people that their survival is a priority, and establishing “clear protocols” to ensure that access to healthcare does not discriminate against Disabled people.

And she said it was crucial that information on how to prevent and contain coronavirus was accessible to everyone through sign language, and the use of plain language, accessible digital technology, captioning, relay services, text messages, and easy-read formats.

She also said that organisations run and controlled by Disabled people should be consulted and involved at all stages of the COVID-19 response.

[With very many thanks to John Pring and Disability News Service, www.disabilitynewsservice.com ]

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Update as of 31st March 2020

All NHS staff and care workers in Bristol can now park for free anywhere in the city, in addition to Trenchard Street car park and Horfield Leisure Centre car park.

 Feeding Bristol and various food banks across the city are working with the Council to support those struggling to buy food.

The Council are sending an email to Bristol residents giving them information and advice about coronavirus and any service changes which may impact them.  Please share the newsletter with anyone you think would benefit from it.  There will be an unsubscribe option on each email, and the Council will also publicise on other channels how people can join the mailing list.

 The Council have said they will be launching a public telephone number today, for anyone who is vulnerable, feels isolated and needs support.  The number will be shared widely, both online and through offline communications so that they reach as many people who need the support as possible.  People can also email coronavirus@bristol.gov.uk for support.

Bristol City Council have said they are working closely with health partners to implement national requirements for hospital discharge through a ‘discharge to assess’ model, ensuring that hospital beds are freed up to respond to additional demand. 

They are setting up an Integrated Care Centre in Bristol where social care, Sirona and the voluntary sector will work together to ensure patients are discharged safely to appropriate support.

They have said they are prioritising:

  • Their Rehabilitation Centres, for those needing 24hr care for up to 42 days, when they first leave hospital (Home First);
  • Reablement, short term care support (up to 42 days) and/or adaptations, so you can go straight home; and
  • Home care capacity (the companies the Council has contracts with, to provide care support to people in their own home. 

This means all those who need short term support and want to return home, shouldn’t need to be put in a care home.

If you already get social care support, through and agency, a Direct Payment or a Personal Health Care Budget, your usual support will continue when you return home.

If you and the care provider agree you need more ongoing support than you were getting before going into hospital, you will need to be given a Care Assessment.  If this doesn’t happen before your short term support ends, remind them that you will need that support you to be extended until you have a care package in place.

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Latest changes as of 24th March 2020

The number of UK cases of the virus can be viewed on this dashboard.

The Government have announced further measures to stop the disease spreading between households [link]. People will only be allowed to leave their home for the following very limited purposes:

  • shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible
  • one form of exercise a day – for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household
  • any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home

The police will have the powers to enforce these measures, including through fines and dispersing gatherings.

To ensure compliance with the Government’s instruction to stay at home, the Government has:

  • closed all shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship
  • stopped all gatherings of more than two people in public – excluding people you live with
  • stopped all social events, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies, but excluding funerals

Parks will remain open for exercise but gatherings will be dispersed. The full list of businesses and premises expected to close is available here [link].

The Government has said it will look again at these measures in 3 weeks, and relax them if the evidence shows this is possible.  Updated guidance on staying at home and away from others has been published alongside this announcement [link].

The Foreign Secretary has also advised all British tourists and short-stay travellers currently abroad to return to the UK where commercial flight options are still available [link].

For businesses, the Government has announced additional measures in the emergency Coronavirus Bill to protect commercial tenants from eviction who cannot pay their rent because of coronavirus. The measures will mean no business will be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment in the next 3 months. As commercial tenants will still be liable for the rent after this period, the Government is monitoring the impact on commercial landlords’ cash flow and continues to be in dialogue with them.  [link].

The legislation also includes new measures to support Business Improvement  Districts (BID)  – to ensure no area loses its BID during this period, the legislation will allow a delay to ballots between now and 31 December 2020 until March 2021.

Further guidance has also been issued on:

  • Guidance for local authorities on eligibility and delivery of the Small Business Grants Fund (SBGF) and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF) [link]
  • Guidance for apprentices, employers, training providers and assessment organisations in response to the impact of COVID-19 [link]
  • Operational guidance for further education (FE) providers on maintaining education and skills training provision [link]
  • As of today, reviews and reassessments for disability benefits are being suspended for the next three months

 Bristol Cases

  • As of 12.00pm on 24/03/20 there have been 28 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Bristol.
  • Please note, the Government has decided not to test people with mild symptoms who do not require hospitalisation
  • The figures do not reflect the extent of spread within the community, which is now assumed to be widespread.  It is this widespread community transmission which makes the current social distancing measures so vitally important, and why the message for people to self-isolate needs to be continued to be conveyed by Members and Stakeholders
  • Local authority numbers of confirmed cases are reported on this dashboard and updated each afternoon

 Bristol City Council

  • We are advising staff to observe the latest government advice about working from home where they can, although we need to continue delivering essential front line services to our communities.
  • To help manage maintain these services, HR colleagues are working with managers of services that are currently closed to identify colleagues that can be reassigned to work in other parts of the organisation.

Public Communication Updates

  • Mayor Marvin Rees, Jacqui Jensen (Executive Director of People, Bristol City Council) and Sandra (CEO, Voscur) showed a short video last from 6:30pm on the key messages surrounding Can Do Bristol and offering help as a volunteer in an organised way. Jacqui and Sandra then followed up from the video with a live Q+A session on the BCC Facebook page, answering questions from the public. There were almost 100 comments on the video with plenty of questions from keen volunteers looking to get stuck into helping out in their local communities as quickly as possible: https://www.facebook.com/BristolCouncil/videos/583573612243951/
  • Mayor Marvin Rees released another bulletin video, announcing: a call out for 450 places for homeless and rough sleepers, that all parks facilities are now shut, and that NHS staff will be able to use Trenchard Street car park for free: https://www.facebook.com/BristolCouncil/videos/210671416703326/
  • A further statement from the Mayor was released to clarify the closure of parks facilities – we are not able to close parklands: https://www.facebook.com/BristolCouncil/photos/a.533536933346377/3145840972115947/?type=3&theater
  • A press release was issued to reinforce the call out for homeless spaces from Airbnb’s, shelters, hotels, and student accommodation providers. People were encouraged to email covid19.accommodation@bristol.gov.uk if they could help: https://news.bristol.gov.uk/news/bristol-city-council-calls-on
  • Mayor Marvin Rees shared his blog platform with Cllr Steve Pearce to share thanks and gratitude to all of the Bristol Waste staff who do their utmost to keep our city clean and tiday: https://thebristolmayor.com/2020/03/23/big-tidy/
  • Bristol 24/7 have continued their live updates on the Coronavirus situation in Bristol, supporting BCC and Mayoral messages: https://www.bristol247.com/news-and-features/news/coronavirus-live-updates-march-24-2020-uk-goes-into-lockdown
  • Allotments: we know allotments are a good way for many people to exercise, so Bristol City Council are continuing to keep them open for now, although some facilities an site (e.g. toilets) will now be closed.
  • Bristol food businesses still operating: Environmental Health have been in regular contact with businesses and a letter is being sent from our Director of Public Health to give clear advice for businesses that are looking to make provision for takeaways and deliveries.

Bristol Volunteering  

  • The following short-link should be used to direct citizens to helping others and volunteering information: www.bristol.gov.uk/wearebristol
  • Videos about volunteering safely are now available in Arabic, Bengali, Kurdish, Polish, Punjabi, Somali and Urdu at the link above. Please do share them.
  • Questions and answers from Sandra and Jacqui’s Q&A on Facebook last night can be viewed here in comments below the video which is pinned to the top of our page: www.facebook.com/bristolcouncil
  • We are updating ourguidance for volunteering page in light of new guidance from government
  • We are supporting the Communities and Neighbourhoods team to improve functionality of the Can Do Bristol website to make it more accessible and easy to use

Bristol Education Sector

  • Last night’s additional information and advice, in relation to social-distancing, will inevitably create increased pressure for head teachers 
  • The current ask of schools and settings to provide childcare for keyworkers and vulnerable children has not changed and, where possible, continue with the same arrangements as yesterday
  • We do not know if we will receive any further information today, specifically for schools and settings
  • We contacted many head teachers yesterday to discuss individual positions and we will continue with those calls today; their feedback was extremely useful and there were a number of common questions and concerns. We are working on circulating a bulletin to all schools by the end of the day today.
  • The communications team are also working with a number of service leads to co-ordinate key messages to parents.

Bristol Social Care Sector

  • The majority of frontline Social Work/Occupational Therapy teams are now working from home and only undertaking essential visits.  We are prioritising resources to respond to urgent need – and supporting the demand in hospitals and ‘front door’ provision.  We are no longer undertaking any non-urgent Deprivation of Liberty Assessments (DOLS) as most care homes are closed.
  • There is a dedicated response set up for Direct Payment users, to ensure they have enough support and can access Protective Personal Equipment (packs are being made available). We have also raised this nationally for advice.
  • Care services are now operating with increasing staff absence due to self-isolation or sickness (25% or more) – we are deploying care staff across all services to keep services running.  We have requested urgent redeployment of staff and are working with HR on recruitment drive through Proud to Care.
  • The Commissioning team is working closely with all care providers to ensure they are operating safely, managing and sharing resources and supporting individual homes where there are several residents with Covid-19 (currently 2).
  • We are working closely with health partners to implement the national requirements for hospital discharge.
  • Additional Government funding is available for Local Authorities for emergency response – a proposal has been prepared for internal BCC sign-off.

Bristol Children’s Services Sector

  • The Children’s Services team are reviewing all risk assessments and adjusting the way in which we see/work with children and families with statutory intervention changing to virtual and telephone contact where possible.
  • PPE is in place where face to face visits are still required and COVID-19 symptoms are present.
  • A reduced capacity across the service means that the Early Help Offer is currently limited.
  • We are pushing information out through local networks and the local offer website for parents and practitioners.
  • Dynamic assessment and reprioritisation is being carried out daily.
  • Assessment and reprioritisation with partners is taking place twice – three times each week.
  • Significant concerns are being raised re: food distribution, costs to families of keeping children home (utility, rent and other bills), inability of poorer families to stay in touch as access to things like free Wi-Fi through communal settings is limited/non-existent.
  • We are attending to contextual risks for young people through reviewed risk assessment and multiagency safety plans – community safety measures are being reviewed (including risk of domestic violence and impact on children).

Bristol Business Sector and Economy

  • The City Office is working with the Economic Development Team, One City Economy Board and Business West to establish mechanisms for city partner organisations to strategically support the city’s economic recovery
  • A current priority for Bristol City Council is to cancel the payments due to be called by direct debit in April for businesses entitled to 100% relief. Discounts will apply as per following guidance: https://www.bristol.gov.uk/business-rates/budget-2020-new-rate-discounts
  • The council is looking to process small business grants (£25k) ASAP. We know that we have circa 5k business who could benefit from this based on those paying business rates. However only 400 have actively requested this so far. Where possible we want to make this available to all ASAP. All we require are business rate account number and bank details for payment by BACs. Please do highlight via your networks to ensure all businesses can benefit. As a council we will promote via our networks and social channels
  • Support can be found at WECA’s Growth Hub which has has set up key information and contacts here https://www.wearegrowth.co.uk
  • We are working with local networks and awaiting further guidance to address key sectors and areas such as the self-employed and help available beyond universal credit and income tax / VAT relief

Bristol Travel Sector

  • Effective from 30th March – First West of England will introduce an emergency timetable to apply on Monday to Saturday. This is a reduction in frequencies to all services, mostly to half hourly or hourly frequency. These frequencies could reduce further in the evenings.
  • We are awaiting schedules for full details and will summarise the picture when we receive them.
  • It is envisaged that an emergency timetable for Sundays / Public Holidays will be introduced for Sunday 5 April 2020.
  • The service changes planned for 5 April have been suspended, including the proposed introduction of service 2A.
  • Travelwest is the main source of information for bus service updates – Real Time Information screens are not predicting and are referring passengers to Travelwest for up to date information. Travelwest will be updated as service levels change.
  • Should we have stability of timetable we will review how best to utilise the RTI screens.
  • To be aware – an issue raised recently about handwashing facilities at Bristol bus station has now been resolved.
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SEND Children and Young People Survey 2020

Following the Ofsted/CQC inspection findings of Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) services across Bristol, Bristol City Council are developing their Written Statement of Action SEND improvement plan.

They want to know what children and young people would like to see improved and what is working well to help them make the significant changes needed across the local area.

Your feedback is really important; please take a few minutes to complete this survey – https://bristol.citizenspace.com/…/send-cyp-survey-2020-sp…/

This survey will close on 27 March 2020

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COVID-19 Caronavirus – Prevent it from spreading!

Corona virus – Let’s stop it taking hold here!
The World Health Organisation is asking that everyone who possibly can does the following:
👏 Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly.
👥 Keep a safe distance from anybody coughing or sneezing (at least 1 metre / 3 feet).
🤦‍♀️ Minimise touching your face.
🗣 Sneeze and cough into your elbow or tissue.
🏠📞 If you have symptoms, stay at home and call for medical care early.

The World Health Organisation is asking that everyone who possibly can does the following:

👏 Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly.

👥 Keep a safe distance from anybody coughing or sneezing (at least 1 metre / 3 feet).

🤦‍♀️ Minimise touching your face.

🗣 Sneeze and cough into your elbow or tissue.

🏠📞 If you have symptoms, stay at home and call for medical care early.

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Have your say on your local green areas and parks in Bristol.

Future Parks of Bristol City Council want to encourage local people to explore how their Parks and Green Spaces benefit their community. What is already happening that can be built on? What opportunities do people see, and how can we as communities make those opportunities a reality?

They want to work alongside community organisations to generate a groundswell of conversations, inspiration and ideas around Parks and Green Spaces.

National Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund have invested significantly in Bristol Future Parks to pilot a programme to transform how we manage our parks into the future. Over the next two years the Bristol Future Parks team will work with a range of partners, investors and local communities to rethink how we fund, maintain and reimagine our parks. This will include finding social and environmental impact investment opportunities, exploring how parks can offset the cost of treating health related issues, building community enterprise capacity, and developing new operating models to generate revenue.

There are no pre-conceived ideas as to what the final solutions will involve. Come and have the conversation.

6.30 – 8.30pm, Tuesday, 10 March Knowle West Media Centre, Leinster Ave, Bristol BS4 1NL

1.00 – 3.00pm, Thursday, 2 April The Park Centre, Daventry Road, Knowle, Bristol BS4 1DQ

REGISTER NOW: bristolfutureparks-easton.eventbrite.co.uk

CONTACT: futureparks@bristol.gov.uk

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Accessibility in Retail – Dissertation

Are you between the age of 18-30? Could you lend your help to Lydia, a Fashion student studying the accessibility of the retail stores and how this affects those with a physical disability?


The idea is a review based app, which allows users to write and read reviews of retail stores, which specifically focus around the accessibility of the store, and everything that entails. This will mean that people can ensure that a store is accessible before arriving there preventing any embarrassment of potential bad experiences in the store. There will be compulsory features, such as whether the store has step free access or an accessible changing room.

This will provide users with an improved enjoyment of their shopping experience, aiming to reduce the difficulty faced when shopping with extra accessibility needs.

The app will have a feature in which people can sort reviews by the location of the store, specifying the city the store is in, or by the brand.

Alongside the review section, a forum feature will be added to the app which means that people can chat with others who face the same issues as themselves, and to discuss issues that they face. The idea of secret forums will mean that the user will not feel any judgement from other individuals, creating a safe environment.

The format of an app has been chosen to allow for the ease of using it in the go. The app will be intended to be used before the shopping trip, on the go to check if a store is accessible, and after the shopping trip to be able to rate the shopping experience in that store, and help others in this area.

A premium feature will be available, which will allow users to pay a small fee for additional features.

Could you please answer this survey – https://forms.gle/bRq8LAyFHyQuk7jM9

Or alternatively email us at bristoldef@gmail.com with your answers to the following (we will then email over the data collected):

What do you like?

What would you like to add?

How much would you be willing to pay for the premium version?

What would you like to see in the premium version?

How would you see yourself using this app?

Would you use the app? Why or why not?

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Extra Care Housing and Homecare Survey

Bristol City council would like to hear your views on Extra Care Housing and Homecare. We would like to hear from those already receiving care and support, those who are interested in what services are available so they can plan for the future, as well as their friends and families. Your views will help shape how we plan for and arrange Homecare and Extra Care Housing services in the future. Please visit the following link to complete our survey https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/BristolHomecareECH/

Alternatively, to request an alternative format of the survey please contact Steve Wimhurst or Paul Housden of the Adult Commissioning Team. Tel: 0117 903 6189 or 01173576498 Email: adultcommissioning@bristol.gov.uk

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Bristol Ciry Council – Bedminster Green planning

As part of the plans to regenerate the area known as Bedminster Green, Bristol City Council is working on a number of projects to improve the area.

We are seeking feedback from the local community on initial ideas for improving the River Malago and the green, and improving travel around and through the area with better routes for public transport, walking and cycling. We are also proposing changes to parking in the area. We are holding a number of drop-ins for you to come along and discuss the ideas and to give us your own suggestions.

The engagement opportunity is open between the 24th of February and the 23rd of March. Information and an online survey is available at www.bristol.gov.uk/bedminstersurvey.

  •  Monday 2nd of March, Bedminster Library, 16:30 – 18:45
  • Thursday 5th of March, Windmill Hill City Farm, 14:30 – 18:00
  •   Thursday 19th of March, Windmill Hill City Farm, 14:30 – 18:00

On the 5th and the 19th of March sessions, we’ll also be offering a walkabout at 15:45 so you can visit the areas where improvements are being considered.

If you have any queries, please contact transport.projects@bristol.gov.uk or flood.data@bristol.gov.uk in the first instance.

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Untold Stories: Follow up gathering / event

It has recently been confirmed that a follow up event of the Untold Stories of Disability History and Activism in Bristol will be happening this Saturday.

  • Sat 28th March 2020
  • 11.30am – 2.30pm
  • Arnolfini Bristol (Theatre Space) 

This event follows on from the event in July 2019 (Untold Stories of Disability History and Activism in Bristol https://bit.ly/2HRNyyH ) 
This event will build on the ideas and conversations from the previous event: 

  • Learning from our histories 
  • Recognising our differences
  • Breaking down barriers 
  • Working together in solidarity

More information to follow soon.
Please e-mail any suggestions, ideas or enquiries to:
bristol.ilag@gmail.com 

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