People with Intellectual Disabilities at higher risk from Covid-19

Read our Covid-19 Impact Report:

English   Spanish

COVID-19 has not created new problems for people with intellectual disabilities, it has made existing exclusion more evident. During the pandemic, people with intellectual disabilities found themselves excluded from education, losing access to their supports, unable to access information, and dealing with amplified effects of the financial implications of COVID-19, among other impacts.

Last week, a report from Public Health England (PHE) found the death rate 30 times higher in people with a learning disability during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. This means that people with an intellectual disability were up to 6x more likely to die.

new analysis by FAIR HEALTH in Collaboration with the West Health Institute and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, found that the death rate among all patients with Covid-19 was 0.6 percent. By contrast, 1.22 percent of those with developmental disorders and Covid-19 died, as did 3.37 percent of those with intellectual disabilities. This means that People with intellectual disabilities and developmental disorders are 3x more likely to die than other people if they have Covid-19.

The PHE report suggests the huge increased risk could be because people with intellectual disabilities are more likely to have other health conditions which can increase the risk of dying from Covid-19. We agree with Mencap‘s response that the UK government have “failed to protect” a group already experiencing health inequalities.

Research from Inclusion International’s network reveals:

  • 44% of respondents said that learning options provided for school aged children during the pandemic were not accessible.
  • 1% of respondents said that essential formal support services either stopped being available or were reduced in response to COVID in their country, and 89.82% of respondents reported that informal supports were reduced or no longer available.
  • 42% of respondents said that people with intellectual disabilities and their families were not able to access new social protection mechanisms introduced in response to COVID.
  • 51% of respondents said that their government did not release information about the pandemic or lockdown measures in plain language or easy read.


The report also shows that a third of those who died with a learning disability during the first wave were living in residential care. During our webinar on  “Deinstitutionalization: before, during and after COVID-19” Steven Allen from the Validity Foundation revealed that this horrific injustice is not just a problem in the UK. He explained that 37% of deaths from the Coronavirus in Europe have occurred in residential settings. The picture is even more serious in Spain, where 66% of deaths have occurred in care homes. It is quite clear that many states around the world have failed to take the decisive action necessary to protect people’s lives.

In institutions, access to communication is limited. A lack of information during a pandemic can increase the spread of infection, increasing the risk for people with intellectual disabilities in institutions. Reducing transmission and protective measures are not the answer. Institutions are a violation of human rights. We cannot accept the argument that deinstitutionalisation takes a generation to implement any longer. The pandemic forces us to act now.

A study from Syracuse University reported that people with these disabilities who were living in group homes in New York State had far higher rates of Covid-19, compared with other state residents, and that their risk of dying was markedly higher, as well.  

Article 19 (Living independently and being included in the community) of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) is a key reference for our movement. It states that persons with disabilities have the opportunity to choose their place of residence and where and with whom they live on an equal basis with others and are not obliged to live in a particular living arrangement

Watch the Webinar ‘Deinstitutionalization: before, during and after COVID-19’

Access to equal healthcare is a Human Right

Article 25 (Health) says that states must provide health services needed by persons with disabilities specifically because of their disabilities, including early identification and intervention as appropriate, and services designed to minimize and prevent further disabilities, including among children and older persons

The Convention is very clear on the way forward and yet, we still don’t see the support that is needed for people with disabilities, including children, adults, women and girls with disabilities as well as older people, to participate in the community