Visually impaired councillor fearful of disabled people having ‘independence stolen from them’ because of coronavirus

PUBLISHED: 15:49 07 August 2020 | UPDATED: 12:23 10 August 2020

Simon Wilkes (March West Ward). He moved to March t years ago.

Simon Wilkes (March West Ward). He moved to March t years ago. "(I am visually impaired; I understand the difficulties disabled people face which could so often could be easily resolved". Picture; FDC/ARCHANT

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A visually impaired councillor described having his independence “stolen” as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Simon Wilkes (March West Ward). He moved to March t years ago. Simon Wilkes (March West Ward). He moved to March t years ago. "(I am visually impaired; I understand the difficulties disabled people face which could so often could be easily resolved". Picture; FDC/ARCHANT

He said at times he felt “forgotten about” and explained to Thursday’s full council meeting about the difficulties he and other disabled people faced.

“I will say I did feel forgotten about,” he said, describing how he had called the local council hotline for advice about getting out for exercise. It was something he said that he couldn’t do independently.

Cllr Wilkes said he got “absolutely zero help” and when he took the advice to call a charity Camsight they were unable to assist because of social distancing rules.

“I was like going round in circles,” he said. “I was passed from pillar to post and getting nowhere”.

Simon Wilkes (March West Ward). He moved to March t years ago. Simon Wilkes (March West Ward). He moved to March t years ago. "(I am visually impaired; I understand the difficulties disabled people face which could so often could be easily resolved". Picture; FDC/ARCHANT

Cllr Wilkes said his main concern now was that restrictions begin how this might help him.

“People like me rely heavily on assistance when out and about from outside one’s household- just seems we are in a contradiction between legal stuff around social distancing which we cannot do –and I’m not being arrogant for in many cases I cannot do it – and our need for assistance,” he said.

All journeys such as a taxi require assistance from the driver and although travelling by train was still possible it was the beginning and end of journeys that were difficult.

“We are getting no real answers what legal rights and expectations we have got to get the assistance we need that we could get pre-covid,”he said.

“Quite honestly if disabled people are not going to get their independence stolen from them and if we are going to get our freedoms back the same as anyone else, we do need those answers.”

Council leader Chris Boden said Cllr Wilkes had made an “extremely valuable contribution” to the debate.

He was sorry he had not been able to get the help needed from Camsight and he would feed that information back.

Cllr Boden also promised that council officers would contact him to find out more about the issues he faces and where to find assistance.

He was concerned about the help needed and to ensure “individuals relying on others don’t have their independence stolen from them”.

Cllr Michelle Tanfield accepted that people with disabilities had been very isolated and she too was not sure what kind of facilities were being put in place for them?

Cllr Jan French said she was disappointed that no one had picked up that Cllr Wilkes might have needed help She apologised to him and “that we might have missed out you out. Do contact me if I can help”.


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