Thousands of disabled people have told MPs how the cost-of-living crisis is affecting both their physical and mental health and forcing them to restrict their use of heating and hot water.
More than 7,000 disabled people responded to a survey (PDF) launched by the House of Commons petitions committee.
Many of them spoke of their anger and frustration and accused the government and wider society of “leaving them behind”, “ignoring them”, and “abandoning them”.
They said successive governments had always “ignored” their need for financial support with the additional costs they face as disabled people, but particularly through the Covid pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.
Some wrote of their feelings of despair, saying they were not sure they could “survive much longer”, with some saying they had considered suicide.
The petitions committee published the results of the survey ahead of a debate on Monday that discussed two parliamentary petitions* (see separate story) that called for the government to provide more financial support for disabled people to cope with increases in the cost-of-living.
There were nearly 11,000 responses to the survey, two-thirds of them from disabled people and those with long-term health conditions.
Nearly all (97 per cent) of the respondents said they were concerned about the impact of the crisis on their physical health, or that of the disabled person they knew or cared for, and a similar proportion (94 per cent) were concerned about the impact on their mental health.
One respondent said: “I’m freezing, I’m hungry and I don’t receive the amount of care I need to live a dignified equitable life.
“A shower is a treat for me now; that’s the stage I have got to.”
They added: “I survived childhood cancer to become a disabled adult. I had so many hopes for my life but now each day I regret not dying of cancer. My life is not dignified.”
More than nine in 10 respondents (93 per cent) said they or the disabled person they knew or cared for had had to restrict their energy use, while 44 per cent had had to restrict their use of therapies.
One respondent said they slept fully clothed to keep warm, or sat in a chair with three double-folded blankets around them, which restricted their movement around their home and prevented them doing their physiotherapy exercises, which had led to their health deteriorating.
They said they were eating less healthy foods and had had to cut out fruit and vegetables, and added: “Life has gone from tolerable to just existing… I’m just existing and it’s endless and miserable.”
A former district nurse said they had been forced to cut down on their oxygen use because of the cost of electricity, while they could not afford to have the heating on, which increased their pain levels.
They are now more than £800 in arrears because they cannot afford the energy they use.
They said: “During my work as a district nurse I witnessed older, sick and disabled people freezing and starving in their homes because of low income.
“I never dreamed that my reward for helping them would be to end up living in the same poverty.”
One powerchair-user, from Scotland, told the committee: “I have had to reduce how much I use my electric wheelchair – it is the only way I can access my home and the outside world so I rarely get to go out now.
“This has caused profound loneliness and very poor mental health.”
They have also had to ration their use of their electric bed, which “has had a bad effect on my physical health”.
A disabled person who lives alone said they could not afford new clothes, basic medical essentials, haircuts, carpets and hygiene products, and had cut back on heating, electricity and washing, and were just eating half a meal or a snack every day.
They told the committee they were even resorting to “bum shuffling upstairs” rather than using their stairlift.
*One of the petitions – which secured more than 16,000 signatures and was started by disabled mum and carer Rachel Curtis – called for an energy grant to support those who rely on heating or equipment such as feeding pumps and ventilators that they need to stay alive, or need to pay for electricity to charge their mobility equipment. The other petition – which secured nearly 25,000 signatures and was drawn up by disabled student Abigail Broomfield – called for disabled people and carers who did not qualify for the government’s means-tested cost-of-living payments to be included in that package of support, and warned that without such help “many more disabled people could die”.
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