In news

As millions of people are notified across the UK if they are eligible for the Warm Home Discount, the disability charity Scope releases figures that show how hard disabled people are being hit by the cost of living crisis. 

Disabled people hit doubly hard by cost-of-living crisis

  • New research shows disabled people twice as likely to have been pushed into debt
  • Fears as energy bills expected to be even higher than last winter
  • Charity Scope urges government to ‘fix its broken promise’ and bring in social energy tariff now to avoid catastrophic winter
  • Three-quarters (74 per cent) of public support discounted energy bills (social tariff) for disabled customer

It’s been almost a year since the government promised it would launch a consultation on an energy social tariff, which would end sky-high bills for disabled people.

In that time, almost a third of disabled people have been pushed into debt (29%), compared to 16% of non-disabled people – new figures from disability equality charity Scope show.

Scope is today releasing damning figures which show disabled people are being hit doubly hard by the cost-of-living crisis.

While Ofgem has announced a reduction in the energy price cap, analysis by National Energy Action shows households will face even higher costs - 13% more on average – than they experienced over the winter months last year.[1] While previously the government provided support including the £400 Energy Bills Support Scheme, and £150 Disability Cost of Living Payment, there are no more of these payments planned.

Scope is calling for urgent action to avoid a catastrophic winter for disabled people.

Research with more than 2,000 people carried out by Opinium revealed the devastating and disproportionate impact the crisis is already having on disabled people:

  • 38% of disabled people surveyed said they were not using heating when cold because of the cost of living, compared to 26% of non-disabled adults
  • 34% (over a third) of disabled people surveyed said they were buying lower quality food, skipping meals and/or eating less because of the cost of living, compared to 19% of non-disabled adults
  • 20% (one in five) of disabled people surveyed said they were cutting back or stopping showering and bathing because of the cost of living, compared to 9% of non-disabled adults

Polling by Opinium of 2,000 of the general population also found strong support for an energy social tariff, with 74 per cent backing the policy.[1]

Scope research shows disabled people face extra costs of £975 a month to reach the same living standards as non-disabled people.[2]

James Taylor, executive director of strategy at disability equality charity Scope, said: “When disabled people are being pushed into debt and can’t afford to eat, stay warm or shower, it’s clear the system is broken.

“These figures lay bare the fact disabled people are being hit hardest in this crisis.

“Life costs a lot more when you’re disabled, and the list of extra costs disabled people face is staggering. People need to use expensive but vital equipment like wheelchairs, hoists and breathing equipment. They face astronomical energy bills to power this equipment. Lots of disabled people need the heating on more for our health. The choices we face are impossible, which is why so many more disabled people are being pushed into debt.

“Scope’s helpline has been inundated with calls from people who can’t afford to eat. One person told us they’d been surviving on donations of food from a neighbour.

“We need action now. An energy social tariff would make an enormous difference for disabled people. And is now backed by an overwhelming proportion of the general public.

The government needs to fix its broken promise.”

Last month Scope was part of a coalition of over 140 charities, organisations and MPs which is calling on the government to take action to support vulnerable households with their energy bills, in an open letter to the Prime Minister.

What is a social tariff?

A social tariff on energy is a discounted energy bill, targeted at those facing high energy costs. This includes disabled people, their carers and older people struggling with bills. It would mean the customer pays a lower price for their energy. It's designed to ensure those in greatest need can live comfortably in their homes.

Scope is calling for the social tariff to be automatically made available to those who need it.

This includes:

  • people receiving means tested benefits
  • people receiving disability benefits
  • people receiving Carer’s Allowance
  • people struggling with bills but missing out on support from the welfare system