Tell Us About Shielding, Disabilities and Covid-19 in Portsmouth

S&C has recently launched a new project to capture the impact of Covid-19 on different communities and sectors in Portsmouth. Here Covid-19 Community Reporter Rosy Bremer explains why, as a local resident living with a disability, she wants to report on the impact of the pandemic on disabled people, and those living with lifelong health conditions, in Portsmouth.

At the best of times, we can be hard to spot as people with a disability/disabilities, or we can be all too easy to spot and therefore vulnerable to abuse by individuals and Government policy –  misunderstood, misrepresented and marginalised, despite all we have going for us.

At the worst of times, we have to stay indoors for three months and shield from the risk of coronavirus, with less stringent shielding restrictions in place for a further four weeks.

Overnight, with the introduction of shielding, people living with disabilities became invisible again. At least, that’s how it felt for me when I was shielding, but I am only one of many, and my circumstances are particular to me.

That’s why I’m keen to know what the experience has been like for other people in Portsmouth with disabilities or lifelong health conditions who were told to shield, or who chose to shield.  The stories we hear least often nearly always interest me the most.

But being part of S&C’s reporting project on Covid-19 isn’t just a matter of personal interest. It is a matter of national and global importance.

England was particularly badly affected by the coronavirus, for a variety of reasons. The virus is still with us and may continue to be with us for many months to come. Even when the risk from COVID-19 is reduced to insignificant levels there will be other novel viruses. We can sharpen our responses, learn how to do things better and improve lives for the better if we can understand what went well and what didn’t go so well for those most at risk.

England’s response to the pandemic had a touch of the ad-hoc about it, although a global pandemic is something that both local and national government is meant to plan for.  Nationally, it seemed like the government’s eye wasn’t as firmly fixed on the tiny viral ball with trumpet protusions as it should have been. I am very interested in this interplay between local and national government: how were we hampered or aided by national government in the pandemic?

I’m also interested in how we, as an incredibly diverse city, responded. I couldn’t have got through shielding without local businesses. For weeks, I couldn’t get a supermarket delivery slot, but between them Ecofreaks Emporium in Gosport, Baffled Coffee on Fawcett Road and Herbies on Albert Road kept me fed and supplied with other household items.  I chose not to receive food parcels from the Government as I wanted to be able to support local businesses at a time when they most needed the custom.

My ten-year old daughter and I are big bookworms and we really missed our local libraries.  The newly-but-perfectly-formed Pigeon Books kept us supplied with books, and provided birthday presents for friends and family.  Once, they even delivered a book to my nephew within an hour of me ordering it.  This was a more than fortunate speedy delivery as I had thought my nephew’s birthday was the day after I ordered the book but it was actually on the day I ordered it.  It almost felt like Pigeon Books knew my family better than I did.

I was also lucky in that I was furloughed, with 100% of my salary paid for the duration of the furlough.

But how common is it for shielding people in Portsmouth to be economically cushioned from the impact of the coronavirus? And how much greater an impact has the virus had on people who couldn’t access goods and services from Portsmouth’s small businesses? What difference has Covid-19 made to the daily lives of people living with disabilities in our communities?

I am very much looking forward to finding out, and in so doing, helping to build a local knowledge base so that we can better support our friends, neighbours, relatives and fellow residents living with disabilities in the city. Where once we shielded out of sight, I very much hope to bring our diverse community into sharp relief.

S&C has been awarded funding from the European Journalism Centre Covid-19 Support Fund to explore the social impact of Covid-19 on diverse communities and sectors in Portsmouth:

  • voluntary sector, including charities, community groups and social enterprises
  • small businesses and self employed people
  • BAME communities

We have also been awarded funding from the Public Interest News Foundation Emergency Fund to explore the social impact of Covid-19 on migrants, and asylum seekers and refugees.

If you are interested in sharing your experiences in any of these areas, get in touch with us over on Facebook and Twitter, or email us at submissions@starandcrescent.org.uk 

Image by Sarah Cheverton.

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