“Truly shocking” official statistics have exposed the deepening impact of the cost-of-living crisis on disabled people.
The figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show how disabled people in Britain are being hit even harder by rising prices than non-disabled people.
They show that many disabled people are being forced to take drastic action to stay afloat, even before further expected price rises this autumn, including steep increases in fuel costs.
But Chloe Smith, the minister for disabled people, this week declined to say whether she was concerned by the ONS figures, or the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on disabled people.
The ONS statistics show that 42 per cent of disabled adults* are 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.
They also show that half of disabled people (48 per cent) said they bought less food in the last fortnight, against 38 per cent of non-disabled people.
And of those who pay energy bills, 13 per cent of disabled people said it was already “very difficult” to pay those bills, and another 38 per cent said it was “somewhat difficult”, compared with six per cent and 29 per cent of non-disabled bill-payers.
One disabled couple told Disability News Service this week of their concerns that they would reach a point later this year when they would have to decide whose dietary and heating requirements they could afford.
John, from Brighton, said his wife, who has cancer, has been told by her consultant that she must have heat for her blood circulation, and must eat high-protein foods.
But John, who has paralysis and epilepsy after a brain haemorrhage 20 years ago, has now been diagnosed with diabetes and so needs his own expensive specialist diet.
They have calculated that their food bill is currently more than £650 a month, their fuel bill has risen to £208 a month from £120, and even though neither of them are on means-tested benefits they can no longer afford life insurance or home insurance.
But he said: “Although we will find it difficult, we are luckier than many other disabled people.”
The ONS figures show that 46 per cent of disabled people are cutting back on non-essential journeys in their own vehicle, against 40 per cent of non-disabled people; and 55 per cent are using less fuel in their home (against 50 per cent of non-disabled people).
The report also says that 23 per cent of disabled people have had to borrow more money or use more credit than usual in the last month, compared to a year ago, against 17 per cent of non-disabled people.
And asked if their household would be able to afford to pay an unexpected, but necessary, expense of £850, only 49 per cent of disabled people said yes, compared with 64 per cent of non-disabled people.
The analysis is based on answers from nearly 14,000 adults questioned between late March and mid-June.
The Disability Poverty Campaign Group is asking disabled people to write to their MPs to urge them to push for action to help disabled people survive “surging energy bills”.
Fazilet Hadi, head of policy at Disability Rights UK, one of the campaign group’s members, said: “The ONS findings yet again show that disabled people are being disproportionately hit by the cost-of-living crisis.
“It is truly shocking that 42 per cent of disabled people are cutting back on food and essential expenditure, compared with 31 per cent of non-disabled people.
“The precarious financial situation of disabled people is further illustrated by the fact that only 49 per cent could meet an unexpected bill of £850 compared with 64 per cent of non-disabled people.
“The Disability Poverty Campaign Group is calling on government to urgently increase benefits in line with inflation, which is currently at 9.4 per cent and set to rise, provide targeted support to disabled people to meet rising energy costs, and stop care charges and other deductions being taken from benefits.”
Although Smith declined to comment on the ONS figures, or describe her level of concern about the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on disabled people, a DWP spokesperson said in a statement: “We know that living with a long-term illness or disability can impact on living costs, which is why financial support is available to those with disabilities or caring responsibilities and we urge people to check they are getting all the help to which they are entitled.
“Eight million low-income households will get at least £1,200 of direct payments this year, with a £150 top-up payment for disabled people.
“And we are also helping more disabled jobseekers to find, retain and progress in fulfilling work, offering specialist programmes such as Access to Work, paired with personal support from our work coaches and disability employment advisers.”
*Those aged 16 and over
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