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Coronavirus – influencing the government

People with diabetes must be protected and supported during the coronavirus pandemic.

As we learn more about coronavirus and the risks to people with different conditions, ethnicities, ages and circumstances, it’s vital that guidance for people with diabetes is clear, consistent and specific to the needs of the individual. Too many people with diabetes are having to choose between their work and their safety, and that’s not right.

Email your parliamentary representative for stronger protections for all vulnerable people at work.

Email them today

Pushing hard about your concerns

Throughout the last few weeks we’ve been calling for: 

  1. People with diabetes to be kept safe at work
  2. Clearer advice, access to support and better protections for people with diabetes
  3. People with diabetes to have access to the services and support they need 

We’ve written to government ministers, attended roundtables, spoken to members of parliaments and assembly members, shared your questions with the key policy decision makers around the UK, contacted supermarkets and worked with other charities to raise awareness of the issues you face both with governments and through the media. 
And we’re not easing up. We know that, as lockdown measures change, people with diabetes need more support and information on the best ways to keep safe.  

We want to campaign with and alongside you on the most important issues – together, we can tell the government and decision makers what you need to stay protected and supported at this time.

1. Safety at work

We heard from thousands of you about the challenges you’re facing in the workplace because of coronavirus. In our recent survey, of people with diabetes working outside of home, two thirds of you don't feel safe at work. And over half of you said that your employer is not making sure you can social distance at work. 

The UK Government issued new guidance for employers in May, as lockdown restrictions began to ease. But it is clear from our findings that this does not go far enough to ensure safety at work for people with diabetes.

Over 12,000 people signed our open letter to the Business Secretary and the devolved equivalent ministers in Wales and Northern Ireland. 

But now we need to keep up the pressure.

Email your parliamentary representative to call on governments across the UK to protect vulnerable people, with clearer and stronger guidelines for employees and employers. 

We are asking the Secretary of State and the devolved equivalent ministers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to make sure that:

  • The development of a recognised, standard COVID-19 risk assessment tool is fast-tracked, allowing the assessment of a person's individual risk based on different factors (such as age, sex, ethnicity and health conditions) to take place. We are also calling for a robust process to be put in place to ensure that the advice a person is offered from the use of this tool will inform decisions about their own safety in the workplace.
  • Until then, people who are clinically vulnerable, including people with diabetes, should have a right to stay working at home at this time.
  • If an employer cannot facilitate this and the employee still has concerns, they should have access to fair remuneration such as the option to be furloughed. This should be through an extension of the UK Government's job retention scheme for those who are vulnerable to serious harm from coronavirus. People who are at risk of serious harm should not have to decide between their health or financial security.
  • There must be robust enforcement of guidance on employment protections for clinically vulnerable people and workplace COVID-19 risk assessments which specifically address their safety.
  • There must be effective and proactive communication of these measures so that people with diabetes know their rights.

The evidence

We ran a survey to understand the difficulties you're facing at work, so we can better fight your corner. Here's what you said:

  • Two thirds of people (67%) working outside of home with diabetes don't feel safe in their workplace.
  • 54% of people with diabetes working outside of their home said their employer was not supporting them to social distance in the workplace.
  • 45% of people with diabetes working, or soon to return to work outside of their home do not feel confident raising concerns about workplace safety (including social distancing) with their employer.
  • 54% of people whose employer have carried out, or are in the process of carrying out a risk assessment have not been consulted about it. This means that employers are at increased risk of not understanding the concerns people with diabetes may have about going to work.
  • More than half (57%) of people with diabetes don’t know where to get support when they need to resolve a workplace safety issue.

This evidence builds on our first survey about coronavirus in April, where we found that 43% of key workers were anxious about being able to social distance at work, and their employer hadn’t made changes about this. And 55% of people with diabetes reported having an issue with their work. This is not right.

Find out more about your rights at work and where to find out more about the differences in guidance across the UK.

2. Consistent advice and access to support

More than 5,500 of you answered our survey to tell us about your worries. You told us that one of the biggest challenges has been not having clear and consistent guidance about the risk to people with diabetes from coronavirus, the measures you should be taking (such as social distancing or shielding, attending school or work) and access to support.

It is wrong that people with diabetes are being left without clear guidance. And as lockdown measures are reviewed, we’re raising this urgently with decision makers.  

Better protections and support

We’ve worked with experts to review the latest data to make recommendations to the government and the NHS for more protections and support. This is for all people with diabetes and for those who may be at higher risk – read our new position statement.

We’re calling for:

  • A consistent approach to assessing risk – so that people with diabetes, alongside their clinical team, can discuss the support and protections they need based on their individual circumstances.
  • Clinical teams to contact people with diabetes who are over 70 or those who have significant risk factors to discuss what measures they should take and the support they need, including if shielding is right for them. The factors that make you more at risk of dying from coronavirus include being from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic group, increased age, a BMI over 30, a history of high HbA1c, or complications such as heart failure or kidney disease.

We will continue to make the case for this in the strongest way, so that people with diabetes and clinical teams get more information and there’s more consistency in discussing your risk. We will push government to use what we’re learning about coronavirus and diabetes to develop policies and guidance that protects and supports you. That could be through shielding or through other forms of support based on your circumstances and needs.  

There’s still much more to understand. We’re calling on the government to urgently explore and address the reasons why some people are more affected than others. 

As governments in the UK ease lockdown measures - and changes are announced to shielding programmes across the UK - people with diabetes mustn't be left behind. It's more important than ever that we continue to call for consistent advice for people with diabetes, as well as ensuring the right protections are in place for those at higher risk from COVID-19. 

3. Access to the services you need

We’re working with clinical teams and NHS leaders to ensure diabetes and other healthcare services are there to meet your needs.

Helping you to get access to food and deliveries  

55% of people living with diabetes told us they were having issues buying the food they need. A third of people had difficulties getting food delivered, and one in five people had trouble buying the right healthy foods. This is a problem for many people, who feel scared or anxious about going out to the supermarket.  

Over 6,000 people took our recent follow-up survey about food, to help us understand the difficulties you might still face getting to the food you need to keep healthy. We are currently evaluating the results and will use this information to show supermarkets and government what needs to change, so everyone can get the food they need to stay healthy.

We have been working with other charities to raise our concerns directly to government, to make sure that everyone can get the food they need to keep healthy.  

We have also written to all major UK supermarkets to share your concerns. We have asked them to expand priority delivery services to people with diabetes, as well as to make sure buying restrictions do not apply to hypo treatments or specialist foods such as gluten-free alternatives. 

It’s not always possible for us to get all the answers – but we will continue to stand alongside you, pressing hard, sharing your concerns, and doing all we can to get ministers, policy makers and the NHS to put the right protections and support in place for people with diabetes. 

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