The government has been accused of “ignoring” the effect of a no-deal Brexit on people with disabilities, as it emerged that no formal impact assessment on the issue has been carried out.
MPs from across the House of Commons hit out at the Department for Health and Social Care after it said it had not carried out a study of how leaving the EU without a deal could affect disabled people.
The answer was revealed in response to a written question from Labour MP Jo Stevens.
Health minister Caroline Dinenage told Stevens: “No formal impact assessment has been conducted by the department of the effect on people with disabilities of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without a deal.”
It emerged late last year that health secretary Matt Hancock had warned pharmaceutical firms that a no-deal Brexit could lead to six months of border disruption, hitting both imports and exports of critical medical supplies.
MPs warned that people with disabilities could be most affected by the possible disturbance to crucial supply chains, as well as pressure on NHS staffing under a no-deal Brexit.
The revelation came after the government set out plans to tackle barriers faced by disabled people and place them at the heart of policymaking through the creation of an equalities hub in the Cabinet Office.
Setting out a range of equality measures yesterday, prime minister Theresa May confirmed that the Office for Disability Issues will transfer from the Department for Work and Pensions to the Cabinet Office.
She said the changes, which will come into force in November, will ensure the government takes action to address injustices faced by disabled people in the workplace, at home and in the community.
Following the announcement, Stevens told CSW’s sister title PoliticsHome that the answer from DHSC on Brexit was “astonishing”.
She said: “It shows just how unprepared the Tory government is for leaving the EU without a deal, and how reckless the Tory leadership candidates have been in advocating one.
“People with disabilities will be deeply concerned about their futures and will properly ask why the government and the candidates to be Prime Minister have ignored them.”
The chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Disability, Dr Lisa Cameron, added: “It is further evidence that people with disabilities have been excluded by government in the planning for Brexit."
The SNP MP – who is also a clinical psychologist – added: "We already know there will be huge potential impact on access to medications and medical aids alongside the negative impact on staff in social care, all of which will impact dramatically upon the most vulnerable.
"This is exactly why the UK government should be looking at this issue rather than ignoring it."
A DHSC spokesperson said the department was working with industry and other stakeholders to continue “robust” no-deal contingency planning ahead of the 31 October deadline.
They added: “Our number one priority is for all patients to continue to have access to medicines and medical products – whatever the EU exit date or outcome.”
DWP, which is currently tasked with responsibility for the welfare of people with disabilities, refused to confirm whether it had carried out a formal assessment when asked by PoliticsHome.
A spokesperson said: “The government is committed to protecting the rights of disabled people and those with health conditions, supporting them into work and to live independently.
“We are preparing for all eventualities to ensure claimants continue to get the right support.”