Charity calls for benefits to be increased in-line with inflation, as new study shows the extent to which disabled people were struggling to make ends meet even before the cost-of-living crisis

  • The disability charity, Sense, has published detailed analysis of government data, highlighting the financial pressures on disabled children, adults and their families.
  • The research shows that disabled people were facing greater debt and hardship even before the current crisis, with the greatest challenges faced by those with the most complex needs.
  • The findings highlight that disabled households, with lower income and savings, and greater dependence on benefits, have less financial resilience in the face of spiralling costs.

19 October 2022 – A new study, published today, shows why disabled households are so exposed to rising costs, and why it’s critical government uprate benefits in-line with inflation, according to a national disability charity.

Sense, a charity that supports people with complex disabilities, partnered with NatCen Social Research, to carry out detailed analysis of the most recent Government data from the Family Resources Survey (FRS)*, with its findings highlighting that even before the current cost-of-living crisis, disabled people struggled to make ends meet, with the greatest challenges faced by those with the most complex needs**.

According to the findings, disabled people were three times more likely to be behind on bills or in debt (13 per cent), compared to non-disabled people (4 per cent); three times more likely to be unable to afford access to adequate food (17 per cent) than those with no disability (5 per cent); and three times more likely to be unable to heat their home (8 per cent) than those with no disability (3 per cent). Rising to eight times (24 per cent) for people with more complex needs.

With costs now spiralling, disabled people have less room to manoeuvre, with working age adults less likely to be in employment, and more likely to be earning a low income and have reduced savings, when compared to non-disabled people.

  • Around half of disabled people are unemployed (55 per cent), rising to four out of five (82 per cent) people with more complex needs. Compared to under a quarter (23 per cent) of non-disabled people.
  • Disabled people are more likely to be in receipt of benefits than non-disabled people. That includes income-related benefits like Universal Credit. One out of seven (15 per cent) of disabled people are on Universal Credit, rising to two out of seven (29 per cent) for people with complex disabilities. This compares to just 5 per cent of non-disabled people.
  • Over half (55 per cent) of disabled people have less than £1500 in savings, rising to more than two thirds (69 per cent) for people with complex disabilities. This compares to a third (33 per cent) of non-disabled people.

The research also details the differences in the financial experiences of households that include disabled children and those that only include non-disabled children. It found that families with disabled children were disproportionately likely to have fewer savings and be struggling financially.

  • Three in five (60 per cent) households with disabled children were more likely to have savings of less than £1500, compared to those in households with children with no disability (42 per cent).
  • A smaller proportion of adults in households with disabled children worked full time (37 per cent) than those in households with children with no disability (49 per cent).

Sense have put forward series of recommendations to improve the situation for disabled people and their families, including a benefits system that meets disabled people’s needs. The charity say that the Government must recognise that inflation has already made life unaffordable for people on low incomes, including those unable to work.

As a result of successive benefits freezes, the standard rate of Universal Credit has increased by 7.5% since 2013. In the same time period inflation has increased by 22.9%.

Sense Chief Executive, Richard Kramer, said:

“The current cost-of-living crisis has worsened an already precarious financial situation for disabled people across the country – with those with more complex needs, and their families, facing the hardest time.

Disabled households are more likely to be in receipt of benefits, out of work with less income and savings. This is made worse by having to pay for disability-associated expenses, such as therapies and insurance, as well as facing higher energy costs to run essential equipment, like feeding machines and ventilators.

While the Government decides whether or not to increase benefits, disabled people and their families struggle with spiralling bills and face agonising decisions, like choosing between heating and eating.

The Government must recognise the scale of the crisis and impact on disabled people and commit to increasing benefits in-line with inflation.”

Earlier this year, Sense announced an emergency fund for children or adults with complex disabilities. The charity was overwhelmed with demand for support, and has provided a thousand families from across England, Wales and Northern Ireland with a £500 grant to help them cope with the cost-of-living crisis. It’s the first time in the charity’s history, which spans more than six decades, that they’ve provided emergency financial support on this scale.

A Sense petition calling for more financial support for disabled households has surpassed 60 thousand signatures.

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Notes to Editor:

*The findings are drawn from secondary analysis of data collected in the 2020-21 wave of the Family Resource Survey (FRS) which provides the most up-to-date snapshot of household experiences and financial situations.

**Previous work carried out by NatCen on behalf of Sense established a definition of complex disabilities based on the set of questions asking about long-term health conditions and disability in the FRS. This study is the first time that this approach has been used to estimate how the financial experiences of people with complex disabilities differ from other groups.

Contact Sense’s media team

Email: [email protected]
Phone number: 0203 833 0611