COVID-19 deaths rates of people with learning disabilities are up to six times higher than the general population, according to government research.
The research report shows 451 per 100,000 people registered as having a learning disability died with COVID-19 between 21 March and 5 June, four times higher than the general population.
However, as not all deaths of people with learning disabilities were included in the figures, researchers believes the real rate may be as high as 692 per 100,000, or more than six times higher than average.
Moreover, deaths rates of people between 18 and 34 with learning disabilities were 30 times that the rate in the same age group without disabilities.
Additionally, the rate of COVID-19 deaths for adults with learning disabilities in residential care was higher than the rate of COVID-19 rates of people in the same category generally. The researchers believed this was due to people in care being generally older and having greater disability.
People with learning disabilities are more likely to die from COVID due to their having additional health problems such as obesity and diabetes, and Down’s syndrome.
Helen Whately, Minister of State for Social Care, said: “A third of those with learning disabilities who sadly died were living in residential care. There is now regular testing of staff and residents in care homes, and testing has also been rolled out to supported living settings in high risk areas. We’re also offering free PPE, and the Joint committee on vaccines and immunisation has proposed those living and working in care homes should be top of the list for vaccination.
“This report adds to our knowledge of COVID-19 and how those with learning disabilities are affected by this cruel disease. I am asking SAGE to review the findings and give advice on what more we can do to keep people safe.”
Kathryn Smith, Chief Executive at the Social Care Institute for Excellence, said: “It is devastating to read about the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people with learning disabilities. The pandemic has continued to highlight the long-standing inequalities in society and particularly for those people accessing social care. This has been shown across care services, from direct exposure to the virus through to the unintended consequences of loneliness, isolation and mental health problems; as well as with the previous issues with accessing appropriate PPE and testing.
“We must continue to highlight the additional support that people with learning disabilities need during this time, including getting access to information in an accessible format and a recognition of the additional risks they can often experience through living with other long-term conditions. Our Beyond COVID-19 report highlights many issues that different people are facing. We must see the sustainable investment that we need to support people now and into the future and this must include a focus on preventative services and better workforce pay and conditions.”
Professor Martin Green, Chief Executive of Care England, added: “This damning report underscores the disproportionate effect COVID-19 has had on those with a learning disability. Care England has consistently highlighted to central government the need for priority to be given to supporting measures to aid preventing the spread of COVID-19 in care settings which support these individuals. Although emerging systems to manage the virus are now being put in place, such as access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 testing for staff and residents, we are immensely disappointed that such measures were not actioned sooner in order to safeguard some of society’s most vulnerable. There are many lessons to learn.”