Over half (51 per cent) of family carers in the UK are now in debt, with three in five (61 per cent) unable to afford to keep their home adequately warm
Sense is calling for targeted support for disabled households, including an Energy Social Tariff to offer a discounted rate for disabled people
London, UK, 09 December 2022 – A fifth (22 per cent) of families in the UK that care for a disabled family member say they will not celebrate Christmas this year, due to the cost-of-living crisis. That’s according to new research by the national disability charity, Sense, which reveals the unprecedented pressure on disabled households.
Over a thousand families that care for a disabled family member were surveyed by Sense, with over half (51 per cent) admitting to being in debt, and more than a third (35 per cent) skipping meals to save money. Three in five (61 per cent) families said they were unable to afford to keep their home adequately warm.
With two thirds (68 per cent) of families admitting to being unsure how they’ll cope over the winter, it will be little surprise that many are not looking forward to Christmas. Over a third (38 per cent) said they will not buy Christmas presents, and a fifth (22 per cent) said they will cancel celebrations all together.
Last month, the Government announced further one-off payments to help with rising costs, as well as a commitment to increase benefits in-line with inflation. However, the increase will not come into effect until April, leaving millions of disabled households struggling to afford food and energy this winter.
Disabled people face higher living and energy costs. More energy is used to run essential equipment, such as breathing machines and feeding pumps, whilst heating is vital for those who can’t regulate their own body temperature.
Sense is calling for more targeted support for disabled people, with the introduction of a new social tariff to lower the cost of energy bills for disabled households who face higher energy usage because of their individual needs.
Richard Kramer, Sense Chief Executive, said:
“When families are struggling to keep their homes adequately warm, we shouldn’t be surprised that many are cancelling Christmas plans.
Everyone has been affected by the rising costs, but disabled households were under pressure even before this crisis, and now many don’t know how they’ll get through winter.
The introduction of the Energy Price Guarantee prevented bills rising to disastrous levels, however, it is not designed to recognise that some disabled households will need to use more energy than the average household.
We want to see the establishment of an social tariff for energy, which offers a discounted rate for disabled people who need to use more energy.
Targeted support is something we urgently need, so that disabled households are able to heat their homes and enjoy the festive period.”
Earlier this year, Sense, for the first time in the charity’s history, provided emergency financial support to families living with a loved-one with complex disabilities. Over 60 thousand people have signed a Sense petition calling on the government to provide targeted support to disabled households. For more information visit: www.sense.org.uk/CostOfLiving
Anna Tesdale, 40, lives in Chesterfield in Derbyshire with her three children, Mac, 15, George, 18, and Charlie, 21.
Her eldest, Charlie, was diagnosed with SPG11 five years ago, and Anna says his needs impact his siblings in ways that are growing with the cost-of-living crisis.
Anna said: “Charlie can’t monitor his own temperature, so he gets cold easily and if he gets too cold, he could go hypothermic. That’s why we’re so careful and have an electric heater to heat his room properly, but we can’t always afford to heat the rest of the house.”
At first, Mac and George didn’t understand why the house was so cold, but Charlie’s room had heat and Anna had to honestly explain the situation to her children.
“I told them that because of his illness he needs to be warm. It’s hard because of course I want to have the heating on full-time for all my kids. Especially when it’s cold and dark outside, I just want them to be able to come home to a warm house.”
Last month, Anna really started to notice an increase in the cost of gas and electricity, just as the days got darker and colder.
“We have a meter and it’s never bothered me because it’s always been manageable,” she says, “but now I put money on it, and it’s gone straight away.”
If the cost of living goes up any further, Anna does not know how she will cope. She already skips meals to make food last and is buying cheaper frozen meals instead of the fresh produce the family would have had in the past.
For Anna, taking things day-by-day is a coping mechanism as the future is unknown.
“I’ve done everything I can, like contacting power companies and being put on priority lists, but I can’t plan for anything else. I don’t think we’ll cope with more rises in January and April.”
“People don’t understand how important benefits are to families like mine. Everyone is struggling, but a divide is being created and people on benefits are being vilified. It’s heart-breaking.”
Going into the festive season, Anna knows things need to be different this year. Her children will receive fewer presents than usual, and the treats that they would normally have at this time of year will not be possible due to the rising costs of everything else.
“Normally I’d be buying lots of little bits but this year it’s one or two things each, and I’m not doing presents for the adults in the family. It’s not a massive deal for me but for the kids it is.”
However, Anna’s children are understanding, and she describes them as being incredible in a difficult situation.
“My middle child has asked for pick and mix sweets this year, because he understands that things are different. We go through so much I just want to treat him and make things special for him, but I’ll do that in other ways.”
Anna’s sister and mum live nearby, so they will gather as a family and celebrate Christmas together. This, Anna says, is what’s most important.
For more information, please contact [email protected] 07957 910 471
Notes to editor:
The research was conducted by Censuswide, on behalf of Sense.
1,007 disabled respondents across the UK were surveyed between 25.11.2022 – 30.11.2022
Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.
Sense is a national disability charity that supports people living with complex disabilities, including those who are deafblind, to communicate and experience the world. Sense supports children, young people and adults in their home and in the community, in their education and transition to adulthood and through its holidays, arts, sports and wellbeing programmes. In addition to practical support to families, Sense also offers information advice, short breaks and family events, and campaigns for the rights of people with complex disabilities to take part in life. For more information, please visit www.sense.org.uk