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Urgent support required for Ukrainians who have a learning disability

by Lisa Carr

Vice President of Inclusion Europe leads coalition of ENABLE Scotland, Learning Disability England and All Wales People First to call for urgent support required for Ukrainians who have a learning disability in the ongoing crisis.

CEO of ENABLE Group and Vice President of Inclusion Europe, Theresa Shearer, together with the Chief Executive of Learning Disability England, Samantha Clark, and Joe Powell, Chief Executive of All Wales People First, have written to the UK’s Foreign Secretary, Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, and the Scottish Government’s Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development, Neil Gray MSP, to urge them to press for measures to protect Ukrainians who have a learning disability through all the humanitarian and diplomatic channels available to them.

Best estimates suggest that there are around 100,000 disabled people living in institutions in Ukraine, including 80,000 children. Concerns are growing for their welfare, and for the support they may need to access movement across Ukrainian borders to safety.

Theresa Shearer, CEO ENABLE Group and Vice President of Inclusion Europe, said:

“In my role as Vice President of Inclusion Europe, I have been speaking with leaders of NGOs across the continent to discuss the human rights implications for people who have a learning disability. It is absolutely clear that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has put millions of Ukrainian citizens in danger, and there is grave concern for the welfare of tens of thousands of Ukrainians who have a learning disability.

“In addition to those who live in their communities, more than 80,000 children and thousands of adults who have a learning disability live in institutions across Ukraine, and Inclusion Europe’s Ukrainian member organisation has very serious fears for their wellbeing at this time.”

Wendy Burt, family and friends members rep and co-chair of Learning Disability England, said:

“As a family member of someone with a learning disability, I am concerned that the emergency plans and crisis responses consider all citizens, including disabled people and their families. I hope that the rights and safety of everyone will be actively included in humanitarian action in Ukraine and for those who have sought refuge elsewhere, whether they live with their family or in a formal service setting.”

Joe Powell, All Wales People First, added:

“We would like to express our solidarity with all of the people of Ukraine who are undoubtedly suffering the severest financial and human rights hardships due to the current invasion. We ask especially, that the rights and the needs of people with learning disabilities in Ukraine are not forgotten and that all measures are taken to ensure that they continue to get the support and care they need during this conflict.”

Led by our partners in Ukraine, Inclusion Europe members across the continent are joining together to call for:

  • Secure supplies of daily necessities to people who have a learning disability, including medicines;
  • Civil protection information in easy read and accessible formats to help people who have a learning disability understand the measures they need to take in dangerous situations;
  • Monitoring of the situation in “care institutions” to ensure people are not abandoned or harmed;
  • Specific support through humanitarian organisations for people who have a learning disability, whether living in the community or in institutions, including support to access movement to a place of safety in line with routes available to other Ukrainian citizens at present.

We will continue to work with our colleagues in Inclusion Europe to offer whatever support we can to our partners in Ukraine to maintain the welfare and safety of people who have a learning disability across the country.

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