Epilepsy Scotland position statement on COVID-19 and learning disability

 

It is well known there is a correlation between epilepsy and learning disability.

Around one in three people with mild to moderate learning disability also have epilepsy.

While around one in five people with epilepsy also have a learning disability.

Epilepsy Scotland is increasingly concerned about the way people with learning disabilities are being accounted for during the pandemic.

Recent figures published by the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory compound this concern.

Researchers analysed the impact COVID-19 has had on people with learning disabilities in Scotland, they found:

  • people in the learning / intellectual disabilities population were more than three times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those in the general population
  • People with learning / intellectual disabilities were twice as likely as those in the general population to become infected with COVID-19
  • People with learning / intellectual disabilities were also twice as likely to experience a severe outcome of COVID-19 infection, resulting in hospitalisation and / or death
  • There has been a 23% increase of excess deaths, from all causes, in people with learning disabilities compared to this time five years ago.

Learning disability

 

Calling on the Scottish Government to act

In light of these shocking statistics, we are calling on the Scottish Government to:

  • Recognise the disproportionate and significant damage the pandemic is having on people with learning disabilities
  • Prioritise people with learning disabilities to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and ensure all people with learning disability are moved to at least priority group 6.
    • Currently only those with severe and profound learning disability are in priority group 6, those with mild to moderate learning disability are not prioritised but are still at significant risk
  • Support the return of vital support services to mitigate the risk of unnecessary deaths and reduce the significant level of regression many people with learning disabilities are experiencing.

Lesslie Young, Chief Executive of Epilepsy Scotland, said: “This is a significant moment for the community we aim to support and one which will test the resolve of decision makers.

Years of budget cuts have decimated services and restricted access to essential support for people with learning disabilities.

The resultant reduction in support is unacceptable. Now we have the pressures brought to bear by the pandemic to add to the mix.

For too many years, too many people with learning disabilities have paid for this lack of policy foresight.

This evidence strongly suggests there is every reason to believe they may end up paying the highest price.

The Scottish Government must act now and prioritise people with learning disabilities to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Not to do so, given this new evidence, would be indefensible.”

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