In the news, on social media, in parliament, and in families across the country, you will hear people talking about the ‘cost of living crisis’, but for many disabled people, it’s more than this. It’s the ‘cost of surviving crisis’.
Many disabled people on legacy benefits have already struggled through the pandemic. Left behind by a Government which claimed to ‘wrap their arms’ around some of the most vulnerable people, they failed to provide financial support for some of those in society who saw the biggest impact. Now faced with an increase in fuel and food costs, many disabled people are being pushed deeper into poverty, confronted with devastating choices that nobody should have to consider. Lynne, who has MS, told us: “I’m a single parent, with three kids and grandchildren. Things are really tight as they are, let alone if bills go up. At the moment all I think about is money and how I’m going to be able to pay the next bill – it’s exhausting.”
Recent figures from the DBC show that disabled people on Employment and Support Allowance, like Lynn, will experience an average real terms cut of £272 per year. Overall, some of the hardest hit disabled people will face a real terms cut of £1432 per year. This is on top of being denied the extra £20 per week support those on Universal Credit received during the pandemic, which left two thirds of disabled people claiming legacy benefits who responded to a DBC survey, going without essential items.
DBC figures showed that even before the increase in inflation, and energy costs, 62% of disabled people on legacy benefits were unable to eat a balanced diet, 64% were struggling to pay essential bills such as water, electricity and rent, and worryingly, nearly a third of respondents (30%) told the DBC they were sometimes or always unable to attend medical appointments due to the associated transport costs of attending.
It’s still unclear how the Chancellor will respond to calls for more financial support for people in the upcoming Spring Budget. Many solutions that have been hinted at across various channels suggest a focus on supporting low-paid workers, and while of course this is welcome, by doing this the government fails to recognise a significant number of disabled people who are unable to work, unable to top-up their income, unable to increase their hours or benefit from changes to UC, and unable to have an acceptable standard of living.
Without doubt, disabled people’s health will suffer if they are not provided with extra financial support now. The government cannot hide behind the same excuses they did when they failed disabled people on legacy benefits at the beginning of the pandemic. They must not and cannot be forgotten again.