What the lifting of shielding really means for disabled and vulnerable people
More than 3.79 million clinically extremely vulnerable people in England were informed they are no longer advised to shield from Thursday 1 April 2021. For many shielders, the official change in rules will make little difference to their day-to-day lives.
In line with the government’s COVID-19 Response – Spring 2021 roadmap published in February, those on the shielded patient list have been advised to begin to follow the national restrictions alongside the rest of the population but are still advised to take extra precautions to keep themselves safe from COVID-19. But a crucial difference is that those who can’t work from home will no longer be able to claim sick pay. Instead, employers have been told to make workplaces “Covid-secure”.
But for many people who have been shielding the decision to end support before they have received their second dose of the vaccination is worrying. Scope research shows that 75 per cent of disabled people plan to continue shielding until after their second vaccine dose leaving many who have been cut off from friends and family for a whole year, potentially facing many more months of extreme isolation, without access to vital support such as food deliveries.
I feel very mixed emotions with the formal end to shielding. As everything is now starting to open up, I want nothing more than to go out again after over a year of shielding. But it feels very unnerving with the risk of still catching Covid to start mixing again. I took every precaution possible and still caught Covid in June 2020, so I’m doing everything on my own timeline and when feels safe to do so.
I am hugely privileged to do this because of the support I have from my employer Virgin Media and because the world has adapted to connecting virtually. In the last year, I’ve spoken to thousands of people across the world from my home (and usually in my pyjama’s).
Those who still do not feel comfortable going into their workplace may also be forced into a choice between their health and their finances. So please continue to support your disabled and vulnerable colleagues
as many people will be filled with anxiety, as what little support remains for shielding could now be removed completely. No one should have to put their life at risk to protect their livelihood.
Microlink is widely renowned for their made to measure workplace adjustment service. No matter what size of organisation you represent, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the experts if you have any questions about workplace adjustments or any related services they offer.
Shani Dhanda is an award-winning disability specialist, listed as one of the UK’s most influential disabled people and BBC 100 Women list 2020.
As a keynote speaker and practitioner for inclusion across business, government, non-profit and wider society, Shani helps organisations break barriers and integrate inclusion into their business frameworks.
Shani’s style and approach are described as ‘a winning combination of authenticity and passion, helping to remove the awkwardness and fear of having confident conversations about disability within business and society. https://www.shanidhanda.com/