A pan-London disabled people’s organisation (DPO) is to call on the capital’s mayor to do more to support disabled Londoners hit by the unfolding cost-of-living crisis.
Inclusion London said this week that food and energy bills have been rising sharply over the last six months, with further increases expected, while London has faced the highest levels of inflation across the UK since April 2021.
It believes the Greater London Authority (GLA), which is led by Labour’s Sadiq Khan, could take action to help disabled Londoners.
Initial findings from a small Inclusion London survey of advisers from London DPOs suggests disabled people have been struggling financially more than ever in the last few months, even before the latest energy price rises.
One adviser reported referring as many people to food banks in the four months between the start of November and the end of February as in the previous 12 months, and said that more people had approached her about problems paying fuel bills within the last month than in the previous year.
Another adviser reported that the number of disabled people seeking help with fuel costs had “increased dramatically”.
Many disabled people who face extra impairment-related energy costs have not been able to meet their basic needs because of large increases in their fuel bills, says Inclusion London.
Inclusion London, and other DPOs, will be meeting GLA next week to discuss the cost-of-living crisis and other key issues affecting disabled people.
Among its recommendations, Inclusion London is set to call for GLA to work with DPOs to increase awareness of existing advice, information and support for disabled people living in fuel poverty, and to improve the accessibility and disability-related content of the mayor’s cost of living hub.
It also wants GLA to commission research into the disproportionate impact of the crisis on disabled Londoners, and ringfence a third of the mayor’s Warmer Homes programme for properties occupied by disabled people.
Laura Vicinanza, Inclusion London’s policy and stakeholder engagement manager, said the cost-of-living crisis was having a significant impact on disabled people.
She said: “They are the worst-hit by this crisis, and they are struggling to make ends meet with the cost of food, and of fuel. They are really struggling.”
She highlighted the UK government’s refusal to raise benefits by the full rate of inflation, and its decision to remove the right to the Warm Home Discount from 290,000 claimants of disability living allowance and personal independence payment, both of which will have “a negative impact on Deaf and disabled people”.
She said London’s mayor could play an important role in easing the crisis.
She said: “The GLA can’t do what the national government can do, raising benefits or changing the eligibility of the Warm Home Discount, but the mayor can lobby national government to do that, and there are other things he can do.
“We need to make sure people have the means to be able to access advice and information, because we know digital exclusion is a very important issue.
“There is much more that can be done from a research perspective, with the lack of data on the numbers of disabled people affected.
“We look forward to engaging further with the GLA on this and working with them to implement our recommendations.”
Another key issue to be discussed by DPOs at next week’s GLA meeting is the planned expansion of the ultra low emission zone (ULEZ) across the whole of the capital next year.
Although many disabled people will benefit from a temporary exemption from the ULEZ daily charge of at least £12.50 for using older, more polluting vehicles, many others with significant mobility impairments will not.
Inclusion London wants to see all disabled people with blue parking badges exempt from the ULEZ charge.
It says the planned move could cause “real financial hardship to many deaf and disabled Londoners who already live in poverty and experience significant deprivation”.
Disabled people have already faced a “disproportionate adverse impact” from the expansion of ULEZ from central to inner London last autumn, it says.
Vicinanza said Inclusion London welcomed GLA’s initiatives to improve air quality in the city but was concerned that Deaf and disabled people would be worst hit by the expansion of ULEZ unless “significant changes” were made to the scheme and “necessary measures” put in place by GLA to mitigate the impact on Deaf and disabled Londoners.
Picture: London’s City Hall, the new home of the GLA
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