Amidst the horrors of the coronavirus pandemic, we have often seen the very best of our country.
The importance of community. Neighbours looking after neighbours. A new belief that we need to stop starving our public services of cash.
But it has also thrown a spotlight on some of the inequalities in our society. For example the disproportionate number of deaths of people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.
And just before Christmas I led a debate in Parliament about the effects of the pandemic on people with learning disabilities.
The numbers are stark. As far back as 2004, it was reported that 37% of deaths of people with learning disabilities were preventable.
And in 2017 The Equalities and Human Rights Commission found that 42% of people with learning disabilities died prematurely. And that was before the pandemic.
NHS figures released last week show that in the five weeks since the third lockdown began, Covid-19 accounted for 65% of deaths of people with learning disabilities. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the rate for the general population was 39% (although the two statistics are drawn from different measurements.)
Younger people with learning disabilities aged 18 to 34 are 30 times more likely to die of Covid than others the same age, according to Public Health England.
People with learning disabilities often cannot communicate their needs and require a carer who knows them to assist them. But during Covid, carers have not been allowed in ambulances or into hospital wards, meaning accurate assessment, diagnosis and treatment can be delayed.
Then there is the scandal of DNRs. This time last year it became clear that “Do Not Resuscitate” notices had been attached to the notes of patients with learning disabilities, but without their consent or the consent of their carers. I was assured by the minister in my debate that this had stopped last spring.
But now the charity MENCAP has revealed that this was still going on during the second lockdown in the Autumn.
My inspiration for calling that debate was my friend Angela Black. Angela is a fearless campaigner on this issue, a former chair of governors at Dorin Park special needs school in Upton, and mother of Alex, who himself has a learning disability – but which has not prevented him from being named one of the BBC’s top young reporters this week.
Angela has pulled back the curtain for me to look behind, and the more I see, the more shocked I get. The hidden scandal of the treatment of people with learning disabilities must remain hidden no more. And it must end.