Year-long inquiry will probe disabled people’s extra living costs


newslatestA disability charity has launched a year-long inquiry into the “financial penalty” disabled people are forced to pay on top of their everyday living costs.

Nine commissioners will spend a year looking at why disabled people in England and Wales pay extra for products and services such as heating, insurance and mobility, and how to drive down those costs.

Among the commissioners are four disabled people – the chair, Robin Hindle Fisher; television presenter and artist Sophie Morgan; journalist James Moore, associate business editor of The Independent; and businessman Amo Raju, chief executive of the user-led Disability Direct – and five other leading figures across consumer affairs, social policy and business.

The Extra Costs Commission was launched after Scope published a report which showed disabled people pay on average £550 per month more for their everyday living costs than non-disabled people, with one in 10 disabled people paying more than £1,000 a month more.

The report, Priced Out: Ending the Financial Penalty of Disability by 2020, showed disabled people were three times more likely to use doorstep loans, and had on average £108,000 less in savings and assets, than non-disabled people.

One in five disabled people said they paid more for insurance because they were disabled, while six in ten who had been turned down for insurance said it was because of their impairment.

Hindle Fisher, who has worked in the financial services sector for more than 30 years and is also a business coach and vice-chair of the Family Fund – which distributes grants to families with disabled children – said: “The markets are failing disabled people, and they are having to pay more than they should just to live the same lives as others.

“I believe reducing the effects of financial barriers is an important part of allowing disabled people to have the same opportunities as everyone else.

“The extra costs disabled people pay have a direct impact on living standards, prevent many from contributing fully to their local communities, and from doing many of the things most of us take for granted.

“The Commission on Extra Costs will explore why this happens and identify where increased market competition and innovation would provide part of the solution.”

He added: “Political parties and the commercial sector have begun to recognise disabled people’s collective spending power but few steps have actually been taken by businesses, investors and governments to harness the so-called ‘Purple Pound’.

“We would like that to change and the year-long independent commission on extra costs will collect evidence on the key drivers of the additional costs faced by disabled people – and what can be done to alleviate them, not just by governments but by the business sector too.”

Scope’s research has found that disabled people pay more in three ways – by having to buy more of everyday goods or services like heating; by having to pay for specialist equipment such as wheelchairs or special diets; and by paying more for everyday products and services, like insurance.

The commission will investigate: who pays more and why they pay extra; why disabled people are often left paying more for the same goods or services, facing steeper bills or having to consume more of something like energy; infrastructure like housing and transport; and how to tackle the “financial penalty of disability”.

Scope is now asking disabled people and parents of disabled children to submit evidence on their experiences of extra costs.

It is also seeking evidence from local authorities, advice agencies, businesses, regulators, charities, designers and other organisations.

31 July 2014