Our new research, produced with the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), shows that even before the current crisis:
Almost a quarter (24%) of people with complex disabilities were unable to keep their homes warm enough.
Seven in ten (69%) people with complex disabilities had less than £1,500 in savings to rely on.
Only 13% of people with complex disabilities in full-time work. Nearly a third (29%) draw on support from Universal Credit.
Visual transcript of the film
We’re shown an animation of a town street with large buildings. In the foreground there is a wooden telegraph post with a ‘Cost of living crisis’ poster taped to it.
The screen pans to the left and we see a group of men and women, disabled and non-disabled, protesting. Some are holding placards that read ‘stop’.
Voiceover: Disabled people are caught in the middle of the current cost of living storm. But why?
We zoom in on a purple building in the background through a window. We see a living room where a woman with curly black hair and a blue t-shirt is sitting in a wheelchair, in front of her TV and sofa. She looks downcast.
Voiceover: Disabled people and family carers are less likely to work full time.
Her mum and younger sister appear, looking concerned. The mum is wearing yellow and is standing on the left; the younger girl, in a green t-shirt, is standing on the right holding the woman’s hand. The TV in the background flashes on, showing the statistic ‘53% disability employment rate’.
Voiceover: Just 53% of disabled people are in employment and they’re more likely to live in poverty.
Zooming back out of the living room window, we see the purple exterior wall. The three women inside are still visible through the window. Projected on the side of the building is the statistic ‘32% of disabled people are in poverty, compared to…’
Moving down the wall, another window becomes visible with a view of a man and woman at the dining table having a conversation over coffee. Projected again on the exterior wall is the rest of the statistic ‘20% of non-disabled people’.
Voiceover: 32% of disabled people are in poverty, compared to just 20% of non-disabled people.
The image fades out and is replaced with an image of a woman in her home. She has dark skin, short hair, a hearing aid and an orange t-shirt. In the background, we see her front door from the inside with a welcome mat and a pile of post that keeps growing as more letters are posted through the door.
The woman is holding an open letter, it’s a long sheet of paper – a bill. Around her float images of credit cards, piggy banks, graphs and downward pointing arrows. She’s thinking about money. Her expression is anxious and she’s rubbing her forehand with one hand. The images around her start to multiply; more arrows and exclamation marks appear, showing her increasing stress.
Voiceover: On top of this, disabled people face higher living and energy costs.
A white and purple slide drops in from the top of the screen. The text on it reads ‘More energy is used to run essential equipment’. Next to this, a smart meter appears showing ‘Today’s cost’ rising to £1.50 – the dial shows us that this is above the set budget.
Voiceover: More energy is used to run essential equipment, like feeding machines and motorised wheelchairs.
A new image fades in. In the foreground two parents, a man in green t-shirt and a woman in a red top, are in conversation both looking concerned. Between them on the purple wall is a radiator and a thermostat showing 16 degrees.
In the background, we see their son’s bedroom through an open door. He is asleep in bed. Next to him is his wheelchair.
Voiceover: While heating is vital for people who can’t regulate their own body temperature.
This is scene slides out of view and we see hands holding up a newspaper.
Voiceover: Before the current crisis, compared to those with no disability, disabled people were three times more likely to be behind on their bills, three times more likely to unable to afford to eat well, three times more likely to be unable to heat their homes – with the stat, rising to eight times more for people with more complex needs.
It’s a Sense paper. Under the word ‘News’ we see a headline and a black and white image of a man and woman in their wheelchairs. The headline reads, ‘Before the current crisis, compared to those with no disabled, disabled people were:’
The hands open the newspaper to the first double page spread. Here the statistic ‘3x more likely to be behind on their bills’ is printed. A black and white image of a woman sitting in front of her laptop, looking sad, appears on the opposite page.
Turning the page again, the newspaper shows a black and white image of a man looking at his empty kitchen cupboards. One hand is on his belly, he looks hungry. On the opposite page, the statistic ‘3x times more likely to be unable to afford to eat well’ is printed.
The next spread shows the statistic ‘x3times more likely to be unable to heat their homes’ and an image of a cold man sitting at home with a blanket, blowing his nose with tissues.
On the last page spread shows a black and white image of a woman in her wheelchair, moving around her bedroom. The statistic here reads ‘rising to 8x times more for people with more complex needs.’
Purple and orange stripes move across the screen to clear the image. Now we’re shown two men in their home. One has light skin and an orange shirt, one has dark skin and is wearing a red t-shirt and a hearing aid. Both look uncertain.
In a white box overlaid on the image, text appears ‘The cost of living crisis is making the situation worse.’ With a pound coin spinning in the corner of the box.
Voiceover: The cost of living crisis is making the situation worse. Disabled people and family carers now face impossible decisions, like choosing between heating and eating.
The box fades away and we see more of the living room the two men are stood in. We zoom in on a smart meter, showing ‘Today’s cost’ rising to £1.50 – the dial shows us that this is above the set budget.
Then we zoom quickly to look at their kitchen. The fridge is empty apart from a small slice of cheese.
Voiceover: Some costs are a matter of life and death.
A man is sat on his bed under an orange blanket. He is pale and shivering, looking cold. Around him, paper sheets with the word ‘bills’ printed on them are floating.
Voiceover: Sense is calling on the UK Government to provide more long-term financial support for disabled people.
Orange and purple circles appear from the centre of the screen and the image changes. Against a white background, two white podiums appear with microphones attached. One has the purple and orange Sense logo on it – two hands, one purple and one orange, forming the letter S from the space between them.
On this one a dark-skinned woman in a purple suit appears, she has an orange rosette and is speaking on behalf of Sense. On the other podium, a white man in a grey suit appears. They are mid conversation.
We see a blue window, before zooming out further to see the full building and the sky behind it. The building is white with a pointed roof. Written above is the Sense logo and a website address.
Voiceover: Join us by visiting sense.org.uk/costofliving
Fades to black.
Why are disabled people affected more by the cost of living crisis?
Disabled people are more likely to be living in poverty, and less likely to be in full-time work.
On top of this, many disabled people face higher energy costs. This is because they may need specialist equipment, like motorised wheelchairs or feeding pumps. These need electricity to run.
They may also need to spend money on things like therapies, carers and insurance.
The support offered by the government is not enough
In recent weeks, the UK government has taken some action. However, for the thousands of people with complex disabilities who were already facing the prospect of going without heating this winter, this support simply won’t be enough to allow them to make ends meet.
What we’re asking for:
A benefits system that meets disabled people’s needs.
Benefits should urgently be uprated in line with inflation, and there should be a review on how the benefits rates are set so that people can live.
Additional financial support to cope with higher energy costs.
We would like to see a social tariff introduced so that people who have to use more energy to run vital equipment aren’t unfairly impacted by energy prices. The changes to eligibility for the warm homes discount should also be reversed.
Targeted support for disabled children and their families.
More recognition needs to be given to families caring for disabled children and the financial challenges they are facing.