A committee of MPs has called for any further cost-of-living payments made by the government to disabled people to be increased in proportion to the extra disability-related costs they face.
The Commons work and pensions committee concluded in its new report that support payments made to help people with cost-of-living pressures over the last 18 months have not been high enough and for many recipients have offered only “a short-term reprieve”.
The report focuses on those considered “most vulnerable”, including many disabled people.
It concludes that the “unsophisticated nature” of the payment system placed “significant limitations” on how the needs of groups such as disabled and older people have been met.
But the committee said it was “particularly concerned” that the extra support offered to disabled people was only £150 per year, and it called for this to be increased in proportion to their extra costs in any future payments.
The report said the committee had yet to receive an “adequate explanation” from the government for how it decided that £150 was a “suitable bridging payment” for disabled people.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said this week that more than eight million households across the UK will receive up to £900 in cost-of-living payments through 2023-24.
As part of its inquiry, the committee carried out a survey which received nearly 2,000 responses, and it also engaged with people with learning difficulties about their experiences of the cost-of-living payments.
One of those adults with learning difficulties told the committee during its engagement process that the rising cost of food and energy meant they had needed to borrow regularly from friends.
They said: “I lay awake at night thinking what to go without to come within budget, but they are essentials so the stress of having to do the impossible was tough.”
Of those who received the disability payment but no other cost-of-living payments, almost all said this provided only “extremely limited” help.
One survey respondent said: “Disabled people were completely forgotten in this scheme and the true cost of their needs was not taken into account. £150 barely touched the sides.
“In my case, my condition means I need to keep my joints warm and I need the heating on more than the average person, I also need to use hot water more frequently.
“I also need to charge equipment I use for my disability.
“This obviously leads to more energy use and higher costs.
“A single payment of £150 did not take these extra needs into account, especially when compared to the amount those on certain benefits received.”
A second respondent said: “Gratefully received but a drop in the ocean of the tidal wave of extra costs.”
Another told the committee: “It didn’t even cover one month’s gas and electricity bill.”
Sir Stephen Timms, the Labour MP who chairs the committee, said the £150 paid to disabled people “barely touches the sides”.
He said: “While the support payments have made an important impact in helping those most in need during these difficult times, the overall package has offered just a short-term reprieve for many, while others have slipped through the safety net altogether.
“It is vital that the government listens to those with everyday experience of support payments so it learns important lessons should a new package of support be required in the future.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “The cost-of-living payments have provided a significant financial boost to millions of households, and are just one part of the record £94 billion support package we have provided to help with the rising cost of bills.
“This includes a 10.1 per cent rise to benefits earlier this year, and a more than £2 billion Household Support Fund to help with the cost of household essentials.
“In the long term, the best way to secure financial security is through work, and thousands of work coaches in jobcentres across the country are on hand to help people find a job, enhance their skills, and reap the benefits of work.”
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