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The Disabled Cost of Living Series: How Those Most Vulnerable are Disproportionately Affected

Millions of people are currently struggling to heat their homes, pay their bills and afford food in the toughest Cost of Living Crisis the UK has seen in 30 years. In our new series, The Disabled Cost of Living, we will hear how disabled people are disproportionately affected, due to their lives already costing more and being valued as less.


Recent figures published by Scope suggest that disabled people were more than twice as likely to be unable to heat their homes. They were 3 times as likely to not have been able to afford food. Among disabled people whose living costs have increased over the past 3 months, 47% have said rising prices had a worsening effect on their long-standing health condition. I feel this is not news to us.

National Insurance payments are increasing, so those who earn less are now contributing more before they receive their wage. The rate is now 8.75% and it applies to those who earn more than £9,880

Energy prices are increasing as part of what has been dubbed the ‘Cost of Living Crisis’, the reliance on other countries for energy has not helped the costs, but this crisis was in motion before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Disabled people who may require to use electric, gas or other forms of energy more due to their health conditions, will have less money to do so.

The standard charge by companies for supplying utilities per unit has increased 54%. The more units you use, the more you will have to pay.

My name is Sophie. I am 26.  I have multiple health conditions, including Cystic Fibrosis and Cystic Fibrosis related diabetes. There are a range of consequences from these conditions including regular respiratory infections, digestive issues, kidney problems, fatigue and joint pain.

I deal with each issue differently, whether through naps or antibiotics. As a consequence, I struggle with my circulation and during periods of cold weather, I do struggle to get and stay warm, which heightens my joint pain. 

My diabetes is a lot better controlled since the introduction of the Libre devices, however I still struggle for warmth. I wear layers of clothing and have multiple blankets. This is not always sufficient, especially in colder periods of the year. 

I am currently working, but have previously been unable to work full-time for significant periods. In the last year, I have moved out and live with my partner. I currently work part-time and he works full-time. I am reliant on Personal Independence Payment to help cover the bills, whilst he covers the rent. Reliance on benefits is a situation that is quite common for most disabled people. 

Before the crisis, disabled people were facing higher living costs. A factor of this is energy usage and requiring more energy to keep warm and power vital equipment.  I feel fortunate that although I have nebulised medication that require electricity, I do not need oxygen or an electric wheelchair amongst others. 

Benefits have increased this month at a rate of 3.1% in line with inflation rate from September 2021. The current inflation rate as of February 2022 is 6.2%. Even though we receive more money, it does not cover as much as it used to, essentially acting as a pay cut. As a consequence of the rise in inflation, the cost of everything is increasing.

As if times were not tough enough, the Government has announced that being on a disability benefit alone will not be enough to qualify for the Warm Home Discount. This was the case it was at the energy companies’ discretion.

When I moved into the property where I live now, I applied and was successful. However, the energy company went into administration and the discount does not transfer. I was not entitled to it under my current supplier. If someone receives a means-tested benefit as well, then they may still be able to apply. This decision is based on the ‘median income’ of DLA and PIP recipients being £14,400, above the new ‘low-income criteria’ of £11,510. 

Considering cohabitating partners’ income for a means-tested benefit is something that has been dissected multiple times and rightly so. There is a presumption that if someone’s partner works full-time, then they will share their income or that their income is enough to share. Here is a reminder that 40% of people on UC are at work. This could force disabled people to be reliant on their partner. 

Another issue is housing. If the property in which you live, is in poor condition, this will add further costs. If a property has damp, then one of the recommended ways to get rid of it, is to put the heating on. For someone who has a respiratory condition, then living in a house with damp is far from ideal.

When I was in this situation in university, I spent more time in hospital, than I did in university. Further costs will be incurred as a result of trying to make a property more habitable.  

It is well-reported that there is a shortage of accessible homes, but even more so with this cost of living crisis, disabled people could feel under pressure to rent a sub-par house that will not suit their needs as that is all that can be afforded. 

As part of my role at Citizen’s Advice, I try and advise people. For anyone who has health conditions or have children under 5, I would recommend signing up to the Priority Service Register of your energy and water company. 

There has been an increase in the calls we receive from those who are struggling. Before April, we received those calls and now more so. Before April we had support from the Government and through Local Authorities. That support has now decreased. We have less resources to help.

There needs to be an overhaul. It is hard knowing what is heading towards us and not having much of an arsenal to try and counter it. 

We need a fully rounded support package for those in need but especially for those who are disabled to help manage the ‘cost of living crisis’ that is being thrusted upon us.  

It is going to be hard, but I think one thing disabled people are good at, is being resilient, because we have spent our lives having to be. 

What is clear is that those who need help the most have been made poorer and that was a choice made by those who it will never affect.


Resources

Citizen’s Advice has lots of great guides but these two in particular:

If you’re struggling with living costs gives advice on how you can get help paying for food, rent, what benefits you may be entitled to and how to get help from your local council.

Using a food bank gives details on what to do if you have no money for food, if you’re shielding or self isolating, getting a referral to a Trussell Trust food bank, going to a food bank and what to do if you need to use one again.

Turn2Us Benefits Calculator can help you find out what you may be entitled to claim and also gives a detailed explanation of each different benefit.

The Social Fund covers cold weather payments, winter fuel payments, funeral payments and the Sure Start Maternity Grant that you may be eligible for.

If you are on certain benefits you may also qualify for a Budgeting Loan to help you buy furniture, pay rent, travel costs, clothes and other thins

Jack Monroe’s blog is full of actual money saving recipes that are easy to cook and fully costed. None of that just eat dried pasta bullshit.

Shout is a confidential mental health support service that is available via text. Free, 24/7. Text “SHOUT” to 85258.


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