Disabled people hit doubly hard by cost-of-living crisis

The £150 Warm Home Discount is not enough. Our new figures show that the government must do more to avoid a catastrophic winter for disabled people.

It has been almost a year since the government promised it would launch a consultation on an energy social tariff to end sky-high bills for disabled people.

Our new figures show that during this year, almost a third of disabled people have been pushed into debt (29%), compared to 16% of non-disabled people.

We’re calling on government to fix this broken promise and bring in social energy tariff now, to avoid a catastrophic winter for disabled people.

Households face higher costs this year

Ofgem has announced a reduction in the energy price cap. But analysis by National Energy Action shows households will face even higher costs (13% more on average) than they experienced over winter last year.

This is because the government has provided more support in the past. This included the £400 Energy Bills Support Scheme and £150 Disability Cost of Living Payment. At the moment, there are no more of these payments planned. So any reduction in the energy price cap is already cancelled out.

Last month, the average energy debt of disabled households supported by Scope increased to £1,794.

The impact on disabled people

Life costs a lot more when you’re disabled. Our 2023 Disability Price Tag research shows that disabled people already face extra costs of £975 a month to reach the same living standards as non-disabled people.

Disabled people need to use expensive but vital equipment like wheelchairs, hoists and breathing equipment, as well as heating. They face astronomical energy bills to power this equipment, which is why so many more disabled people are being pushed into debt. 

Research by Opinium reveals the devastating and disproportionate impact the energy crisis is already having on disabled people:

  • 38% of disabled people surveyed said they were not using heating when cold because of the cost of living, compared to 26% of non- disabled adults
  • 34% (over a third) of disabled people surveyed said they were buying lower quality food, skipping meals and/or eating less because of the cost of living, compared to 19% of non-disabled adults
  • 20% (1 in 5) of disabled people surveyed said they were cutting back or stopping showering and bathing because of the cost of living, compared to 9% of non-disabled adults

Speaking to BBC news today, our energy advisers said that energy debt has spiralled for disabled people in the last 12 months.

"A lot of the families that we are talking to, it doesn’t matter what season it is, they still need the same amount of energy. We’ve spoken to people who are using candles because they don’t want to put the lights on. People who are considering stealing food so that they can afford to top the meter up. There’s just not as much support available this year.”

Susan's story

Susan relies on electricity for many things, including a fridge to store medication and to charge her wheelchair. She can’t cut down on her energy use.

Speaking to BBC news today, Susan said:

‘I’m scared to use anything [electrical]. It’s a living hell. The mental anguish that you go through is very detrimental to your physical being. My health has declined a lot in the last year... It’s a bit like being on a life support machine and [the government] are just pulling the plug on it. How can we live like this?”

Why we need a social tariff

A social tariff on energy is a discounted energy bill, targeted at those facing high energy costs. This includes disabled people, their carers and older people struggling with bills. It would mean the customer pays a lower price for their energy. It's designed to ensure those in greatest need can live comfortably in their homes.

An energy social tariff would make an enormous difference for disabled people. And there’s public support for this too. Three quarters (74%) of the general public support our call for discounted energy bills for disabled customers.

Get your MP to support disabled people this winter

Join our campaign and ask your MP to support disabled people this winter.

Scope is here to help

If you, or a loved one, are disabled and facing extra costs, Scope has practical information and advice.

And our helpline team can help you with benefits, manage your energy bills and claim the financial support you’re entitled to.

You can also share your experiences and talk to people in similar situations to you on our online community.


All statistics, unless otherwise stated, from online surveys carried out by Opinium between 13 and 20 September 2023 with 1,017 Disabled Adults in England and Wales (weighted to be nationally representative) and 1,422 non-disabled adults in England and Wales (weighted to be nationally representative applied).

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