Campaigning disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) have called on the chancellor to accept a seven-point plan that they believe will save disabled people’s lives this winter.
Members of the Disability Poverty Campaign Group (DPCG) have told Nadhim Zahawi that the millions of disabled people who now live in poverty “simply do not have the means to survive this national crisis”.
They point to the extra impairment-related costs faced by many disabled people, including spending on food, care and support services, equipment, energy, fuel and travel costs.
The letter adds: “We have legitimate cause to believe that, without urgent Government action, energy costs and wider inflationary pressures will result in avoidable loss of life over the winter months.
“It is in the national interest that Government act now to save Disabled people’s lives.”
In a letter (PDF) asking for urgent measures to be taken by the government, they call for four immediate actions, to be put in place by 1 October.
They want to see an emergency uprating of benefits, by at least the 13 per cent inflation rate predicted by the Bank of England.
They also want a permanent ban on the automatic deduction of utility bill arrears from benefits, and a temporary ban, at least during the autumn and winter, on deductions for other forms of debt, such as repayments of Department for Work and Pensions advances and overpayments, under its “third party deductions” scheme.
And they want the chancellor to restore eligibility for this winter’s £150 Warm Home Discount to the 290,000 disabled people on benefits such as personal independence payment who do not receive means-tested benefits and had their eligibility for the payment withdrawn earlier this year.
The fourth request is for “further targeted, non-repayable” financial support for disabled people in “vulnerable circumstances”.
But they also go further than immediate changes to the social security system.
The DPCG letter calls for social care to be made free at the point of use, and a ban on local authorities taking debt recovery action again service-users who have not paid care charges.
It also calls for the energy tariffs for customers using pre-payment meters – who pay in advance for their gas and electricity – to be the same as those for customers using standard meters.
And the letter calls for better protection for those disabled people who may not be able to top up their pre-payment meters this winter and so face the possibility of having no power through so-called self-disconnection (PDF).
The letter, written by Kamran Mallick, chief executive of Disability Rights UK (DR UK), on behalf of DPCG, tells the chancellor that there has been a “wealth of recent evidence” that has shown the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on disabled people.
And it points to Office for National Statistics research, which last week exposed the deepening impact of the cost-of-living crisis on disabled people and found that 42 per cent of disabled adults were spending less on food and other essentials, compared with 31 per cent of non-disabled people, because of the rise in the cost-of-living.
Fazilet Hadi, DR UK’s head of policy, said: “The Disability Poverty Campaign Group heard media reports that the Treasury was putting together financial options for the new prime minister to consider.
“We wanted the chancellor and officials to be absolutely clear about the mounting evidence that disabled people in poverty are being the hardest hit by the cost-of-living crisis and need urgent support.”
The Treasury had not commented on the letter by 11am today (Thursday).