Covid-19: the impact on disabled and older people in the UK

8 Apr 2020

Only one in five disabled and older people feel the government is doing enough to support them during the Covid-19 outbreak. 

A snap, UK-wide, survey by RiDC of its 1,649 panel members (conducted between 30th March and 3 April 2020), has collected immediate feedback on the impact of government measures on disabled and older people. We asked a range of questions about the level of support they are receiving, how supermarkets are performing, how they are dealing with the overall situation and their concerns for the future. 

The rules introduced by the Government have effectively required everyone except those who can’t work from home to remain indoors unless they are buying food, exercising, or seeking or giving medical assistance.

Six out of ten of the 842 respondents to this survey are currently self-isolating i.e not leaving their home at all.

50% of people with care support needs are no longer receiving health or personal care visits to their home.

One significant impact of government restrictions on movement and the spread of the virus, as experienced by large number of our panel, is a drop in the number of health and social care visitors supporting them at home. 

“I have a team of three PA’s. Last week two were off sick. I tried ringing care agencies but none were taking new clients. Should my PA’s all be off at the same time, I don’t know what I will do.”

“They’re leaving it to ordinary citizens to provide for the elderly and disabled. Many people like me do not wish to be a burden on our friends and neighbours.” 

One in five respondents also reported a reduction in the services provided by the local authority. 

Of the 47% of respondents who have used online shopping during the crisis, 45% believe the supermarkets are performing poorly or very poorly.

Food shortages, long queues and panic buying characterised the early stages of this crisis. Slowly people have adjusted to new ways of shopping and online deliveries have rocketed in popularity. Some supermarkets are holding online slots for vulnerable groups but according to the RiDC panel, a large proportion of people are struggling to get shopping. When asked how concerned people were if the crisis lasted more than three months, 38% were very concerned about the supply of food.

“Tesco have said they are prioritising special needs but there is no way to contact them to tell them you have special needs. Blind people do not seem to be prioritised. I can’t drive so can’t carry large amounts of shopping.”

“All I want is to be able to access supermarket delivery as a priority customer… supermarkets are not doing enough to prioritise support for those in isolation at home.”

One in three RiDC panel members are very worried about contracting the virus.

We also asked how disabled and older people were feeling about a range of issues affecting them now and how they would feel if the restrictions last for more than three months. At the moment, 34% of respondents were extremely concerned about seeing their family and a further 30% were extremely concerned with making medical appointments.

Looking to the future, the level of anxiety related to seeing family rises to 46% and making medical appointments increases to 42%. Other issues like shopping, accessing medicine and mental health and wellbeing all become greater sources for concern, if the restrictions stay in place longer than three months. 

“They need to ensure all official announcement videos are subtitled, translated with BSL and that there is easy to read documents.”

“Food prices have gone up and the people on DLA, PIP or ESA should be given more so they can access food and other urgent supplies like hygiene products”


Download the full results

Download additional comments from respondents

For more information about the research, please contact Eric Harris, RiDC Head of Research: