Disability Pride Month: The Impact of the Cost of Living Crisis on Disabled People
This month is Disability Pride Month, which brings awareness to all of the obstacles disabled people overcome, and celebrates their individuality. Part of raising awareness means not only talking about individual disabilities, but bringing light to the issues that disproportionately affect the disabled community. This month we want to raise awareness on the impact of the cost of living crisis on disabled households.
Disabled households in the UK are amongst the worst affected by the cost of living crisis. This is because they encounter significant extra cost to their daily living, compared to non-disabled households, as they have the need for specialist equipment, care and therapies, as well as higher spending on essentials.
Many disabled people cannot afford the higher energy prices used to power essential and life changing equipment such as ventilators, hoists, wheelchairs and communication devices. Imagine the uncertainty of living with not knowing if you’ll be able to afford to communicate or get out of bed tomorrow. This is the reality that many disabled people are faced with.
The Office for National Statistics states that ‘the employment rate for disabled people is 54% compared to 82% for non-disabled people’. Disabled people are also typically less well paid. The ONS also found that the disability pay gap was 13.8% in 2021, meaning disabled people earn almost £2 less per hour on average. This means that many disabled households now have some of the lowest income levels in the country, with 33% of disabled people in the lowest household income group.
Low incomes, combined with significant extra cost to their daily living, leave disabled people and their households particularly vulnerable to the rising cost of living.
Factors such as energy and food, which have been driving the increase in inflation, make up a disproportionate share of the disabled household consumption. For example, disabled people with limited mobility will need greater levels of heating to keep warm. Individuals who rely on assistive technology use a higher amount of electricity than people who don’t. Even in the summer months when many people are feeling a slight relief from energy costs, for some disabled households there is very little difference. Disabled households also tend to spend a greater proportion of their income on food. Depending on the nature of their disability, some people may find preparing ingredients difficult, hence a greater reliance on convenience food which is at a greater cost. Some individuals may also have to cater to a special diet or have allergies, in which case these types of foods and food supplements can be far more expensive. For example, for people with Coeliacs Disease, gluten and lactose free food often costs much more than their alternatives.
Cost of Breathing Crisis
The charity Scope has started a new campaign, in partnership with ITV, called the Cost of Breathing Crisis campaign. The campaign is designed to raise awareness of the devastating impact that the increasing cost of living has on the lives of disabled people. They have created an advert, which you can watch here, which is based on real experiences that thousands of disabled people have shared with Scope. The advert features 6 disabled actors, who all use essential electronic equipment to help with day to day living, but we can see that the equipment is unplugged and out of use. The advert also highlights that Scope are there to help disabled people with the rise in cost of living. The charity offers free and accessible advice, can help navigate benefits, manage energy bills and access grants and claims that individuals may be entitled to.
The campaign hopes to create conversation between the wider community about the impact of cost of living on disabled people, to try and spark awareness and support for change. The extra costs disabled people face are often overlooked by society.
On average, the extra cost of disability is equivalent to 63% of household income after housing costs. Extra costs do not just relate to money that has been spent, but it also includes the purchases and services disabled people have to go without, because their available income has been used up by essentials. Many disabled households are finding that they are unable to meet the extra cost of disability, which pushes these households further into poverty. Of all households in poverty, just under half contain someone who is disabled. Disability benefit payments such as Personal Independence Payment (PIP) exist to try and offset some of these costs, however even when taking PIP into account, the average disabled household faces an extra cost of £975 per month.
The Cost of Living Payments made by the Government in 2022/2023 were set out to help families meet the rising prices of inflation, but 80% of disabled people said it was not enough. Due to inflation, disabled households are 3 times as likely to live in material deprivation than the rest of the population (34% versus 13%).
What needs to change?
Scope sets out to bring awareness to the fact that tackling the extra cost of disability must been seen as a political priority. By doing so, every disabled person can participate fully in society and reach their potential. They have highlighted that this needs action on multiple fronts, from government, companies and regulators.
- Commitment from government to prioritise tackling the extra cost of disability. They propose a focus on designing a welfare system that lifts disabled households out of poverty, as well as capturing the full range and types of extra costs faced.
- A creation of an Energy Social Tariff for disabled households, meaning a discounted rate for disabled people who need to use more energy and targeting financial support to those who need it most.
- Action from regulators such as Ofgem and Ofcom to make sure that disabled people don’t overpay for everyday basics and essentials.
If you are an individual who is struggling to keep up with the extra cost of disability, or come from a household which is affected by the extra cost, its important to reach out for support and advice. As mentioned, Scope has a helpline offering free and impartial advice. You can also reach out to Citizens Advice regarding what extra help you can get with the cost of living crisis, or Turn2Us who can also provide advice on benefits and grants available to you.
We hope you have found this article helpful and informative. For more information on the charities and services mentioned, please click on the bold and underlined text to follow links to their website.
You can also find out more information below.
- Scope – Cost of Breathing Crisis
- Scope – The Disability Price Tag
- Office of National Statistics analysis of Household Finances Survey 2010/11 to 2019/2020
- The Guardian
- House of Lords Library
- Citizens Advice – Get help with the cost of living