Why disabled people are at the centre of the cost-of-living crisis

Disabled people are caught in the middle of the current cost of living storm. Inflation is predicted to hit 10 per cent later in the year, as energy bills rocket and food prices shoot up.  

But this is on top of the extra costs that many disabled people already faced.  

Energy for powering essential equipment such as hoists, beds, breathing equipment, powered chairs and monitors was already expensive. We’ve previously shown that extra costs faced by disabled people add up to £583 a month on average.

These are not optional extras that can be cut back. This is vital, often life-saving, equipment.

How the crisis is affecting disabled people 

Some disabled people and their families are simply past the point of being able to cut back anymore and afford to get by. Some, face the terrifying reality of not being able to afford the basics. Facing the stark choice daily of heating or eating.   

Scope storyteller Jignesh Vaidya is paralysed from the waist down and gets cold easily. He holds down two jobs, but already has been forced to cut all expenditure for him and his young family right back to the bone. It’s likely this will get worse before it gets better.  

We’ve seen a huge rise in calls from disabled people to our helpline and our Disability Energy Support service – concerned about bills and how they’ll make ends meet.

Benefits aren’t keeping up with the scale of the crisis  

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is the main benefit that’s meant to take into account extra costs. It’s never covered everything, but now is falling further behind as the rate of inflation increases.

PIP has been increased by 3.1 per cent, based on inflation rates from September last year. But the Bank of England is now forecasting average inflation of 9.5 per cent over the coming year. This amounts to a £1bn real-terms cut to benefits, which could see those with the highest living costs losing out on up to £505 per year in vital support.  

The government will look again at benefit levels next April. But what are disabled people meant to do until then? This situation is unfolding right before our eyes and at Scope we are concerned by the lack of action.   

What support are the Government providing? 

The recent Queen’s Speech was an opportunity for Government to address this. But it failed to do so.  

The Household Support Fund – designed to help with essentials such as food, utilities and clothing - may provide some relief. But like the changes to National Insurance and the cut to fuel duty, it’s not targeted at disabled people who are struggling the most.  

To make matters worse, changes to the Warm Home Discount will see 300,000 disabled people miss out, even though the one-off yearly payment is set to rise by ten pounds to £150.  

What we want to see 

Life costs more if you’re disabled, but the support on offer right now doesn’t touch the sides of these costs.  

We need action now, not in a year’s time. The government must announce direct financial support for disabled people and, at a minimum, increase disability benefits in line with inflation. We need support that’s targeted at disabled people who are at the sharp end of this extra costs emergency.  


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