CDG Perspectives. Michelle Lowe, CDG Policy Lead: Coronavirus - 'Impact on Mental Health and Social Care'

A few week ago the CDG's Conservative Policy Forum (CPF) Group held a Zoom discussion open to all of our members to discuss the CPF's Policy Paper on the impact of Coronavirus on our local communities, including disabled people. We also ensured that our submission was sent to our 'Parliamentary Champions' as well as the CPF to help develop policies to support people through the pandemic and beyond.

CDG members mainly focused on the impact the lock down is having on peoples’ mental health and well-being, as well as social care. On mental health people were concerned about the impact the lock down is having on everyone. They were especially worried about people living alone; older people forced to be the sole carer for their spouse or other relative they live with; and people living in accommodation with only limited access to outside space. Concerns were also raised about the impact on people living with domestic abuse and violence. Mental health and anxiety is also having an impact of people who may be concerned about losing their jobs, their businesses or the impact this is having on their education and future employment prospects.

There were also concerns about people who live with long term mental health and/or who are disabled, who would be disproportionately affected by the lock down. An example was given of people from the blind and sight impaired community that do not qualify for grocery deliveries and are having a difficult time as a result, also impacting on their mental health and well-being. Members also raised the issue around the long-term mental well-being of people who work in health and social care, citing that there is likely to be a rise in PTSD among staff in social care. They felt there should be investment in place for their future well-being and mental health needs.  

There was a strong feeling that more support could be available to assist people with their general mental well-being during the lock down. The lack of face-to-face interaction and opportunities for entertainment was widely recognised as an issue. If this was not addressed members are concerned that we could see a rise in suicide, particularly for people who live with conditions such as Bipolar Disorder.  

Members also raised the effect that bereavement (whether from a COVID-19 related death or not) will have on peoples’ mental well being. The grieving process has been so severely disrupted with limited visiting of the dying and grieving relatives coupled with small, socially distant funerals to say goodbye to loved ones that it is likely to have a long-term impact

Members of the CDG felt there should be an easing strategy for mental health and well-being that accompanies the economic easing. The government needs to be mindful of the mental health impact this is having on everyone, but particularly on certain groups in society.

Members stressed we may not see the full impact on peoples’ mental health for some time, and support services should be ready for them.

The other issue that was discussed in depth was social care. Members very much hoped that the light COVID-19 is shining on the social care system will provide extra impetus to find a cross party, long-term solution to make it work more effectively. They were also keen that people who rely on social care, must have a key role in the direction of creating a better social care system. 

Another issue that came up was the lack of sufficient back-up in the care system if carers are unable to work in in the event of them self-isolating. There was also some discussion about whether social care should be more integrated with the NHS. Spouses and other family members are struggling to care for people in their homes if some of their support can no longer work due to Coronavirus – placing extra pressures on disabled people, with some having to do extra tasks in the home as a result.

The Conservative Disability Group is made up of party members from a diverse range of backgrounds and perspectives on disability issues. We would like to thank all CDG Members who participated in the discussion or told us their views via our Members' survey. We believe the results of our discussion will provide a valuable insight to the CPF and other policy makers, both within the party and in Parliament. You can find out more about the CDG's CPF Group.

Michelle Lowe - CDG Policy Lead