A user-led campaign group has welcomed a “timely and important” new report that shows disabled people are caught in a financial “disability trap” because of the extra costs they face, and their problems accessing work, benefits and essential services.
The Disability Poverty Campaign Group (DPCG), which is led by disabled people’s organisations Disability Rights UK and Inclusion London, said the findings would intensify calls from its members for a parliamentary inquiry into the causes of disability poverty.
The Financial Wellbeing of Disabled People in the UK was produced by researchers at the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre and from the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers (RiDC).
Although none of the authors are disabled people, they spoke to 57 members of RiDC’s UK-wide research panel of disabled people about their financial wellbeing, and then surveyed more than 800 members of the panel.
Some of those they spoke to described the “punishing and humiliating” process of applying for benefits and the discrimination they faced from employers.
One said: “What’s even worse is the lack of control that you have over your own finances, especially if you’re on benefits.
“It feels like these can be taken away at any time, and you’re also reassessed every two to three years, based on your eligibility.
“And with universal credit, you don’t know what you’re going to get the next month.”
The researchers found that 27 per cent of disabled adults were in serious financial difficulty, compared to 11 per cent of non-disabled adults, with half (47 per cent) of disabled people who receive universal credit struggling to pay for food and other essentials.
But they also found that some disabled people were much more likely to face financial hardship than others, with some age groups reporting significantly worse financial wellbeing than older disabled people.
The survey found 19 per cent of disabled people of pension age said they faced a “constant struggle” to meet bills and credit commitments, but this rose to 40 per cent for those aged 45 to 54.
Disabled people with certain impairments were also significantly more likely to be in financial trouble than other disabled people.
Those most likely to report facing a constant struggle with bills were those with mobility impairments, learning difficulties, mental health impairments, impairments that affect appearance, multiple health conditions, chronic fatigue and impairments that were acquired suddenly.
Helen Rowlands and Dan White, co-leads of DPCG, said the report showed that the systems that should provide a safety net for disabled people “are broken” and that “nothing about the UK benefits system works well for disabled claimants and their households”.
In many cases, they said, engaging with the system is a “disabling ordeal” that can lead to “distress and self-harm”.
The report was supported by abrdn Financial Fairness Trust.
Among its recommendations, the report calls for a benefits system that provides a “proper safety net”; targeted support to reduce the costs of disability, such as higher water and energy bills; better access to essential services and advice; and improved access to jobs for those who can work.
Professor Sharon Collard, chair in personal finance at the University of Bristol, and one of the report’s authors, said: “There are examples of positive changes already happening on some of the issues we highlight in the report.
“But to make a real difference, major changes are required to ensure that all disabled people in the UK have a decent standard of living.”
Gordon McCullough, RiDC’s chief executive, said: “This report highlights the disability trap many disabled people find themselves in where the cost-of-living crisis has exacerbated the extra costs associated with being disabled.
“We hope this report shows the importance of fully appreciating the challenges and barriers disabled people face when understanding what financial wellbeing means to them.”
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