Long Covid, ELCI and workers’ rights

Chronic Illness Inclusion responds to a report on workers’ experiences of long Covid

The recent Trade Union Congress (TUC) report on workers’ experiences of long Covid marks a milestone in our response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The TUC’s survey of more than 3,500 workers finds that a third had symptoms of long Covid for more than a year. It is now clear that long Covid can be a life-changing illness. For some, it is creating enduring disability.

Just as importantly, this report is the first time we have talked about disability equality in relation to long Covid. The focus until now has rightly been on improving medical understanding and treatment of the condition. But the time has come to look beyond fixing individual bodies, and focus on changing society’s response to long Covid, Addressing employers’ legal duties towards disabled workers is a key place to start.

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Remote access, ELCI and co-production

Inclusive co-production means using remote access technologies to reach some groups of disabled people in their homes if needed.

Chronic Illness Inclusion is proud to feature in an exciting new open access volume from Policy Press on Covid-19 and co-production.

“Groups most severely affected by COVID-19 have tended to be those marginalised before the pandemic and are now being largely ignored in developing responses to it,” say the editors of Covid-19 and co-production in health and social care research policy and practice.

For this ‘rapid response’ publication, Catherine Hale and Alison Allam were invited to share learning from the Chronic Illness Inclusion Project on digital research methods designed to include hard-to-reach communities. Their contribution: ‘A place where we could listen to each other and be heard:’ Enabling remote participation spaces for research and co-production among disabled people with energy impairment beyond COVID-19 forms chapter 14 of Volume 2.
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Women’s Healthcare Survey reveals ‘medical ableism’

Chronic Illness Inclusion has responded to the Department for Health and Social Care’s inquiry into Women’s health and well-being in England.

To ensure that our organisational submission reflected the concerns of women with Energy Limiting Chronic Illnesses we launched our own survey.

Over one thousand women responded, with hundreds giving details of the difficulties they have experienced in getting diagnoses, treatment and support. They reflected a culture of disbelief and dismissal. Many of the responses were heartbreaking to read. Over the weeks to come we will begin to share some of these responses so that women’s voices, which are too often silenced, can be heard and amplified.

Lead author, Catherine Hale, writes:

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Disability employment gap – CII gives evidence

CII were recently invited to give evidence to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee. This is the first time that evidence has been specifically sought from people living with energy limiting chronic illness – ELCI.

You can watch our Director, Catherine Hale giving evidence on YouTube.

Catherine’s speech begins approximately 1 hour and 7 minutes into the recording.

“I already have a job… getting through the day”

Our latest policy report on ELCI, employment and social security

The ‘I already have a job…’ report, by Catherine Hale (CII), Stef Benstead (CII), Dr Kate Hardy (Leeds University Business School) and Dr Jo Ingold (Deakin University), sets out how government, employers and the benefits system are failing millions of people in the UK with Energy Limiting Chronic Illnesses – (ELCIs).

Although one-in-three disabled people of working age experiences problems with stamina, breathing or fatigue, the report says that their needs are not reflected in the workplace, in legislation, or by disability assessments like the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

Despite ELCIs affecting almost 5 million adults in the UK, these people are hidden within disability-related policies because their lived experiences of illness and impairment is widely misunderstood, often discredited, denied and disbelieved.

Lack of knowledge about ELCIs and how reasonable adjustments should work, make it impossible for people with these conditions do paid work. The rapid move to home working during the pandemic shows that such change is possible. It is imperative that employers continue such beneficial practices.

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‘Reclaiming Chronic Illness’ seminar

Our Director Catherine Hale and Dr Anna Ruddock recently took part in an event organised by the School of Health Sciences at City, University of London.

In this seminar they share findings from the Chronic Illness Inclusion Project. Set up in 2017 this was a user-led research action project aiming to give a voice to those with an invisible disability. Fatigue and limited energy were found to be the most common restricting factors for those with a variety of chronic illnesses, but were not often recognised as impairments and were often treated dismissively.

You can watch the event on YouTube

 

What are energy impairment and ELCI?

Introducing the key features of energy-limiting chronic illness (ELCI) and energy impairment and why we use these terms.

 

Energy-limiting chronic illness (ELCI) is an umbrella term to describe long-term health conditions in which severe fatigue – or rather energy impairment – is a key disabling feature. ELCI and energy impairment are terms that have come out of our participatory research and they are important to our advocacy work as a Disabled People’s Organisation.

Through our multiple surveys and focus groups among the chronic illness community, we found that, while different diseases have their own unique clusters of symptoms that impact differently on each person, the predominant and most restricting feature of many chronic illnesses is fatigue or limited energy, as well as pain. The term we use for this is ‘energy impairment’.

There’s a reason we call it energy impairment, and not just fatigue.

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Duty of Care and the DWP

The recent inquest into the tragic death of Philippa Day has once again, shown the inadequacies and cruelty of a benefits system that damages the mental health of claimants.

The disability benefits system engenders a culture of systemic disbelief towards claimants, creating a hostile environment towards the very people it is supposed to support. Reports of claimants who complete suicide or starve to death as a result of traumatic assessments or benefit sanctions do not appear to have prompted any change in policy or procedure by successive ministers in charge of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

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It’s Our Community

Catherine Hale spoke at It’s Our Community, a conference on social care reform. Catherine explained the high prevalence of energy limiting conditions and the psychological impact of not being believed.

I was a social care user back in the 1990s. I’ve had my chronic illness for over three decades and when it was really acute, and I couldn’t wash feed myself, or go to the loo, I had a care package. But later years when things were less severe, my needs were harder to grasp because my impairment was invisible and poorly understood. The social care system completely let me down. As a disabled lone parent I had no support.

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CII responds to The Real Deal

CII has written to the BBC to explain why their TV programme caused hurt and distress to disabled people with invisible chronic illness, as well as other hidden impairments.

The Chronic Illness Inclusion Project’s letter to the team behind the controversial episode in the ‘Crip Tales’ series, ‘The Real Deal’ (BBC Four) is co-signed by other Disabled People’s Organisations and service user and patient-led organisations.

The letter asks for constructive dialogue with the team, and others at the BBC, to ensure disabled people with non-visible impairments are portrayed in a positive light in future programming.

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