Does the Budget deliver for people with complex disabilities?

Top of Elizabeth Tower (nicknamed Big Ben) at Westmister in front of a cloudy sky
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Today, the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke for an hour without telling us much that was new. His plan to cut National Insurance by 2p was meant to be headline-grabbing, but it ended up being yesterday’s news – quite literally.

It’s true that most of us will be affected by the measures set out by the Budget in one way or another. But has the Government done enough to help people with complex disabilities with the higher costs they face?

The end of Cost of Living Payments

We already knew before Jeremy Hunt’s statement that one of Government’s key Cost of Living Measures would not be replaced.

The last of the Cost of Living payments for 2023-24 has now been paid out, and the Government has not announced any plans for new payments for the next year. These payments were welcome – although the people we support told us they were a drop in the ocean compared to the costs they faced.

But while the Cost of Living Payments have come to an end, the financial pressures faced by disabled people are far from over.

Extending the Household Support Fund

It’s true that the Government did make an announcement about the future of the Household Support Fund. The Fund, which gives local authority money to spend on measures to tackle the cost of living crisis, had been due to close at the end of the month.

While awareness of the scheme has been relatively low, our polling has found that 46% of people with complex disabilities did find the Household Support Fund useful. That’s why we signed Barnardo’s joint letter calling for the extension of the Household Support Fund for at least another year.

The Chancellor has confirmed that the Household Support Fund has been extended – but only by six months. This means that this support will be withdrawn just before winter – a time which is often hardest for people with complex disabilities.

But though the Government’s cost of living support is ending,  the financial pressures  facing people with complex disabilities are far from over.

The continuing cost of living crisis

While the Government might point to falling inflation as proof that the cost of living crisis is easing, the reality is that many people with complex disabilities are still struggling as a result of higher prices.

Sense research has found that 70% of people with complex disabilities went into the winter worrying whether they would be able to cope financially.

And despite lower energy prices, almost 60% of people with complex disabilities told us last year that they found it difficult to afford their energy bills.

That’s why Sense has been calling for more financial support for people with complex disabilities.

Disabled people need a long-term solution to the costs they face.

In the longer term, disabled people need more than one-off payments to help them make ends meet.

Sense research found that, even before the cost-of-living crisis, people with complex disabilities were four times as likely as non-disabled people to be unable to heat their homes adequately.  

As well as facing higher costs, people with complex disabilities are likely to be in a worse financial position.

Sense has found that only 13% of people with complex disabilities are in fulltime work, while almost a third draw on support from Universal Credit.

This goes to show why the Government cannot tackle the challenges faced by disabled people by focusing solely on ‘rewarding work’.

What should the Government do?

The Budget failed to deliver any significant support for disabled people. 

Yet there are things that the Government could do to make sure people with complex disabilities are more financially resilient.

They could start by ensuring that all benefits are set at a level where people can afford the essentials. But the cost of these essentials needs to come down in the first place.

That’s why, like a number of other charities and consumer organisations, Sense supports the introduction of a social tariff in the energy market.

This would cut bills for many people with complex disabilities. 86% of people with complex disabilities said that this would help them afford their energy.

What Sense will do next

The Budget may be over, but the cost of living crisis is not. With a general election on the horizon, at Sense we are working on our plans to make sure every political party understands why people with complex disabilities need more financial support. And we’ll be holding the next Government to account if they fail to provide that support – whatever party they’re from.