Coronavirus: information and updates

Scope launches Disability Energy Service and Utilities Report

  • 45 per cent of disabled people have seen their energy bills increase since the pandemic began
  • Disabled people are struggling to get support from their energy providers as usage and bills skyrocket
  • Disabled people already face extra costs of on average £583 per month [1].
  • Scope sets out recommendations for utilities companies and launches its own Disability Energy Support Service to help disabled people facing increased energy bills.

Disability equality charity Scope has today published a new report that reveals the shocking impact of the pandemic on disabled people’s energy bills, with some disabled people forgoing meals or staying in one room of the house to conserve energy.

As millions of disabled people have been shielding during the pandemic, they have seen their energy usage soar. The Opinium survey, commissioned by Scope, of more than 1,000 disabled people revealed that 54 per cent of had seen their energy usage increase, and for 34 per cent of people this was causing them worry or concern. However, 86 per cent of disabled people have had no contact with their energy supplier regarding concerns about their bills.

Scope are launching their new Disability Energy Support service, to work with disabled people and support them through these increased costs, give them tailored advice as to how to bring their energy costs down, and navigate their relationship with their energy supplier.

Scope’s new survey also found:

  • 45 per cent of disabled people have seen their energy bills increase since the pandemic began
  • 54 per cent of disabled people have seen their energy usage increase
  • 34 per cent of disabled people said energy costs and usage have caused them concern or worry.
  • This was significantly higher in London where 62 per cent of disabled people in the capital were worried about energy usage and costs
  • 29 per cent of disabled people were concerned about affording energy in the next few months
  • 8 per cent of disabled people said they have gone without certain things to pay for energy bills
  • 86 per cent of disabled people have had no contact with their energy supplier regarding concerns about their bills.

Tom Marsland, Consumer Affairs Policy Manager at Scope said:

“Disabled people have been hardest hit by the pandemic, with millions facing almost a year shielding at home. Spiralling energy bills are only going to turn the screw even tighter. We already knew before Coronavirus that disabled people faced extra costs to the tune of around £583 per month, spending more on essential goods and services. The pandemic has only served to exacerbate the situation and has left people feeling anxious about their increasing energy bills and in the dark about how and where to get help.

Energy suppliers have an obligation to help their disabled customers, especially if they’re struggling with bills. Scope is launching our new Disability Energy Support Service to bridge the disconnect between customers and their suppliers.

We’ll work with disabled people and give them tailored advice as to how to bring their energy costs down, and navigate their relationship with their energy supplier.”

Scope wants energy companies to support disabled people who are struggling with their energy costs. Scope is calling for energy suppliers to

Proactively identify and contact their disabled customers and offer support, if, and when needed.

Improve how they gather information about the needs of their disabled customers.

Improve customer service to be more empathetic to disabled people’s personal and financial situations

Have a wide range of options for sources of financial support and advice to support disabled customers to pay their bills and increase awareness of these measures.

Agree exemptions or reduced charges for energy usage based on a customer’s impairment or condition.

Build partnerships with disability charities, disabled people’s organisations and others who can provide specialist support.

Today, Scope is hosting a utilities webinar which will bring together a range of utility industry professionals to share best practice about how the industry is working with Scope and disabled people to listen, learn and innovate across the sector.

Storyteller: Garry Ratcliffe

Garry and his husband, Kyle are the proud parents of four children they adopted; Haydn, who has cerebral palsy and is blind in one eye, Bella, who has Downs Syndrome, Curtis, who has a number of impairments and conditions, including Cerebral Palsy and Global Development Delay, and Phoebe who isn’t disabled.

Garry is the Executive Head of a multi-academy trust made up of three schools, and Kyle gave up work to look after their children full time. Together, they are now establishing a children’s charity in Curtis’ name. As a family of six, Garry has faced many extra costs. These include high energy bills, increased insurance, toys with a premium price tag, a washing machine that almost never stops, and the hidden ongoing costs of maintaining specialist equipment.

“Haydn has cerebral palsy and uses a power chair provided by the NHS. It didn’t fully meet Haydn’s needs. We had to pay an additional £1,000 to add a riser which we now have to pay separate ongoing maintenance costs for.”

“Add the word special needs and the price will just rocket. We have been victim to that many times. When it comes to special needs bikes, the price is significantly more, but the design and quality is actually significantly less.”

“A family we know paid £60 for their travel insurance. Ours was £495. We struggled to find a provider to quote for our family. Now I start with the insurance, rather than the holiday.”

“The additional costs from clothing may come from wearing through things quicker than normal, or because they’re washed more often. Our washing machine literally is going all of the time.”

“The additional cost like the washing, the ironing, the tumble drying, running the bath - all of these costs are constant and have a significant impact.”

References

[1] From Scope’s Disability Price Tag 2019 report

All other statistics, unless otherwise stated, from an online survey of 1,005 working age disabled adults carried out by Opinium on behalf of Scope between 20 and 22 January 2021, weighted to be nationally representative.

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