Oxford charities and advocates for disabled people have backed Oxford City Council’s call for government funding for an inclusive reopening of the city centre for people with disabilities.

On June 22, city councillor Marie Tidball wrote to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) asking the Government to reverse a decision that it would not pay for stewards providing accessibility support as businesses and non-essential shops reopen.

This call has now been backed by charities and support groups Elmore Community Services, My Life My Choice, Oxfordshire Association for the Blind and Connection Support.

MHCLG has allocated £134,950 from the Reopening High Streets Safely Fund for the council to introduce safety measures helping people get back to work and shops.

The council is using this funding to introduce a range of measures that include advisory one-way pavements in the city centre, but alongside that is also employing 12 city centre stewards.

The stewards help with advice and support for anyone who needs it, but also give personalised accessibility advice to people with disabilities.

But guidance says the stewards are not eligible for RHSS funding, even as the council faces coronavirus-related financial difficulties.

Office for National Statistics data published last month shows that disabled people represent 60 per cent of coronavirus-related deaths – with disabled women 2.4 times more likely and disabled men 1.9 times more likely to die than in the general population.

The risk of death from the virus increases significantly for people with disabilities younger than 65.

Only a fifth of the 11 million people with a disability in the UK are on the government’s shielded list.

Councillor Marie Tidball, cabinet member for supporting local communities, said: “As a disabled woman myself, I know that it is essential for the protection of the health of disabled people and their inclusion in our society that measures taken to exit lockdown consider their elevated risk of contracting coronavirus.

“To comply with their public sector equality duty and United Nations guidance on developing a disability-inclusive response to coronavirus, I would ask the government to think again and listen to the voices of disabled people and their advocates. We need to be able to reopen our city in a safe and accessible way, and we need government support to do this.”