Press Release: Disabled People’s Organisations deliver closing submissions at the Covid Inquiry in Wales

Disability Wales logo which has the organisation name in English and Welsh in plain text on a white background. The words are framed on the left hand side by four spirals in DW's trademark blue and orange colours.

At the conclusion of Module 2B of the Covid Inquiry in Wales today Disabled People’s Organisations have criticised Welsh and UK Government handling of the pandemic and called for widespread Inquiry recommendations.

In the closing statement delivered by Danny Friedman KC in Cardiff, Covid-19 Public Inquiry core participants Disability Wales and Disability Rights UK said that in spite of its humanist values and collaborative practices, Welsh government could not deliver quickly and widely enough to its population. They identified DPO fears that given the Welsh Government’s commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People, and to engage properly with Disabled people and their organisations, in Wales the pandemic response was “as good as it gets, but not good enough”. 

The DPOs criticised the lack of early action in the first wave of the pandemic, a lack of joined-up planning, and a fatal lack of situational awareness in the Welsh care sector. Given the devastating increased death toll in the second wave in Wales which included a disproportionate number of Disabled people, they argued that Welsh government could have implemented a sooner and longer October Firebreak. They expressed concerns that the data gaps in Wales were so poor that even with the high number of recorded deaths, it is hard to trust that its tragic numbers on fatalities were not in fact worse. Wales did not routinely collect data on protected characteristics with regard to hospitalisation and ICU treatment. It did not register all covid deaths in its care homes from the outset. In line with the UK, it still does not systematically gather health data on individual impairment and did not gather information to reflect the social model of disability to ascertain what disabled people might need, even though Wales has led the UK on the importance of the social model for over 20 years. 

Turning to criticisms of Westminster, the DPOs noted that Welsh Government was often informed about decisions by Westminster rather than being consulted upon them, for example Welsh ministers learned barely days before enactment that devolved public health law, and not reserved aspects of UK Civil Contingency Law, would govern lockdowns. The DPOs also noted that Wales was not invited to SAGE for its first 5 meetings. 

The DPOs called for Inquiry Chair Heather Hallett to make the following recommendations to be implemented across the UK to ensure Disabled people and other marginalised groups could be better protected and supported in public health emergencies:

  • Dedicated Disabled People’s ministers in national and devolved governments to mitigate the consequences of inequality 
  • Methods for achieving more diverse political representation to ensure Disabled people are leaders and managers, rather than being led
  • Disabled people, bereaved families and front-line workers to be enlisted to deliver training to local and central government officials on pandemic response
  • A National Disabled People’s Board to ensure the voices of Disabled people could be properly heard. 
  • Full incorporation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People into not just the law of Wales, but the whole of the UK. 
  • Reforms in data collection and management to ensure marginalised people can benefit from the information revolution. 
  • Equality and human rights impact assessments to be applied to budgeting, including the duty to consider socio-economic disadvantage under section 1 of the Equality Act 
  • All governments to practice co-production and co-design with all its people, and not just more powerful interests.

Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales said:

“The UK Covid-19 Inquiry Public Hearings in Wales have helped shine a light on government decision making and the role it played in the devastating impact of the pandemic on disabled people, including the very high deathrate among our community.

The characterisation of the Welsh population as being ‘older, poorer and sicker’ instead of being a spur to government action to address the barriers they would face, contributed to feelings among disabled people of being ‘dispensable’.  As the Locked-Out Report revealed, it is social factors that contribute to the inequality of disabled people including discrimination, poor housing, poverty, employment status, and institutionalisation. Together with a lack of PPE, poor and patchy services, inaccessible and confusing public information, many disabled people experienced a very real loss of power, voice and citizenship.

Lessons must be learned concerning why the lives of disabled people appeared so expendable and to ensure that never again do we face ‘the mass death and real suffering” experienced by so many”. 


Disability Wales (DW) is the national association of Disabled People’s Organisations striving for the rights and equality of all disabled people.

Disability Rights UK is the UK’s leading organisation led by, run by and working for disabled people.

The report Locked-Out: Liberating disabled people’s lives and rights in Wales beyond Covid-19 (2021) was written by Professor Debbie Foster in coproduction with a Steering Group of the Welsh Government’s Disability Equality Forum, consisting of representatives of Disabled People’s Organisations and individual disabled people. The group was chaired by DW’s Chief Executive Rhian Davies: Locked out: liberating disabled people’s lives and rights in Wales beyond COVID-19 | GOV.WALES

DW and DR UK are represented by a team at Bhatt Murphy led by Shamik Dutta and Charlotte Haworth-Hird and counsel Danny Friedman KC, Anita Davies and Danielle Manson at Matrix Chambers.

The Covid-19 Inquiry Module 2b is investigating and making recommendations about the Welsh Government’s core political and administrative decision making relating to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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