Beating bowel cancer together

Leading charities representing 2 million+ vulnerable people demand answers over looming shielding disaster

Friday 16 October 2020

In coalition with 13 other leading health charities supporting clinically vulnerable people, we have written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Chancellor Rishi Sunak to request an urgent rethink following the release of the new guidance for those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19.

We are deeply concerned the guidance falls short of the practical and financial support required to enable vulnerable people with bowel cancer to stay safe as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. This is the second letter the coalition has sent to the Government – after the first in July failed to get any response – and highlights how vulnerable people living with long-term health conditions as well as those on immune suppressing medication, are not being properly protected or supported.

The new guidance advises vulnerable people in high alert areas to stay at home as much as possible, but offers no support to help them cope with the financial and practical implications of doing so. Even in the highest alert areas, where vulnerable people are unable to do their job at home for whatever reason, the guidance only says they “may” be eligible for some benefits. This raises massive financial concerns for already vulnerable people.

We are not calling for the blanket re-introduction of shielding; instead, we’re urging the Government to recognise that without vital support many vulnerable people will not be able to follow advice to protect themselves as COVID-19 cases rise, forcing them to take unquantified risks to their health.

In letters to both the Health Secretary and Chancellor, the coalition highlighted three main areas that fall short of the crucial support needed:

  • Financial: Introduce a new support scheme (or extend the furlough scheme) for people who are high risk and unable to work from home as furlough comes to an end. This is essential in areas at the highest risk. The Government must also ensure that workplace health and safety measures are enforced stringently
  • Access to essential items: Ensure safe access to deliveries of essential items, including food and medicines, particularly in high-risk areas, to prevent vulnerable people having to take unnecessary risks
  • Better communication: Vulnerable people need timely information in plain English that reaches everyone, not just those with internet access, so they can protect themselves

Our Chief Executive Genevieve Edwards, says: “This advice to shielders fails to adequately support some of the country’s most vulnerable people. Many bowel cancer patients will be left without packages of support they desperately need. More than 268,000 people in the UK are living with bowel cancer, and we know that many continued to shield even when the guidance changed in August.

We want to see a commitmentfrom the UK Government to introduce concrete measures of financial and practical assistance, so our community aren’t forced to choose between their health and their livelihoods.”

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