The Government has been slammed for “failing to protect” people with learning disabilities who are up to six times more likely to die from COVID-19.

A Public Health England (PHE) report has found that the death rate among those with a learning disability are 30 times higher when compared to people in the 18-34 age group.

The data was collected between 21 March and 5 June and discovered that out of every 100,000, 451 people registered with a learning disability had died with COVID-19 during that period. However, experts think that figure could be a lot higher.

The learning disability charity Mencap has criticised the Government and is urging it to do more to help those who already have significant health problems.

Dan Scorer, the head of policy at the organisation, said: “The Government has failed to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens. Decades of underinvestment in social care has left most people with a learning disability with no support to understand ever-changing guidance on staying safe and accessing testing.

“This, combined with the closure of the NHS for all but the most urgent care, has clearly had a devastating impact on people with a learning disability, and exacerbated already shocking levels of premature death and health inequalities.”

Naomi Brown from Surrey lost her brother Adam to COVID in April. He had been living in residential care and despite having the classic coronavirus symptoms he was not tested until he was admitted to hospital.

In the community:

Speaking to the BBC, she said: “Hearing and reading reports like this doesn’t surprise me, it saddens me but it’s not surprising.

“People like Adam, people who don’t have their own voices to speak for themselves are just left, kept in the dark, disregarded. There’s only us, the families, to speak and stand up for people like my brother.”

Prof John Newton, PHE’s director of health improvement, has called for action to be taken to “prevent this happening again”.

He added: “It is deeply troubling that one of the most vulnerable groups in our society suffered so much during the first wave of the pandemic. But with cases developing across the country, it is essential to practice rigorous infection control if you are in contact with someone with a learning disability, whether or not they live in a care home.”

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