Our new research lays bare the crisis facing people with complex disabilities – it is time for the government to act
Today, we published new research looking at the financial experiences of people with complex disabilities. In the first study of its kind, we found that even before the current cost of living crisis almost a quarter of people with complex disabilities were struggling to heat their homes.
And, at a time when energy bills and day-to-day costs are still rising, nearly seven in ten people with complex disabilities have less than £1,500 in savings to fall back upon.
What we found shouldn’t be surprising. In recent months we have been hearing from countless people with complex disabilities and their families who have been struggling to make ends meet. Rising prices are affecting people across the UK, but costs relating to things like charging essential equipment or needing to use taxis have made this crisis hit even harder for disabled people.
That’s why in August we made the unprecedented decision to provide emergency grants for disabled households. But it is simply not right that disabled people, their families, and charities have been left to try to plug the gaps in government support.
The energy price guarantee announced in September is a significant investment in subsidising people’s energy costs. But it simply isn’t enough.
Even with the support so far, households are still facing a 64% increase in their energy costs from last year. And it’s people already living in poverty who will be most affected.
Our research found that just over one in ten people with complex disabilities are in full-time work, with nearly a third drawing on support from Universal Credit. For too many people, that means having to try to scrape by on payments that do not reflect the cost of living.
None of this is inevitable. The government still has the opportunity and the responsibility to act so that disabled people and their families are protected – through this winter and beyond it. In our briefing, we set out where they need to start.
A benefits system that meets disabled people’s needs
We need to see benefit payments set at a level that allows disabled people to meet their basic living costs.
At a time when thousands are falling into poverty and needing to rely on food banks, it is unthinkable that the government is contemplating cutting financial support by choosing not to increase payments in line with inflation next year.
In our briefing, we call for the government to commit to increasing benefits to reflect inflation, and to make sure that local authorities can provide emergency help for disabled people and their families.
Additional financial support to cope with higher energy costs
For disabled people who face higher energy costs, the struggle to afford energy bills has existed long before this crisis. In our briefing, we support calls for a “social tariff” in the energy market.
This would mean charging a lower rate for energy for disabled people and other groups who face particular difficulties in affording energy costs.
Targeted support for disabled children and their families
Our research found that families of disabled children were more likely to be food insecure and less likely to have savings when compared to other families. We need the government to put in place specific support to help disabled children and their families stay afloat.
We commissioned this research because we urgently need policymakers to understand the circumstances that many disabled people are in as we enter winter. It is not right that thousands are still facing the prospect of being unable to heat their homes.
The government has the power to do something about it, and we need to see them act.
Read the full research briefing
In this briefing, we set out the findings from our October 2022 analysis of the cost of living and complex disabilities, produced in partnership with the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen).