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Disabled people are ‘being hit harder by the cost of living crisis’

Charity Scope says more than two million disabled people are expected to be in fuel poverty before the end of the year.

The cost of living crisis is hitting disabled people the hardest with almost three million facing an average support shortfall of £367 a year, a new report has found.

The disability equality charity Scope has warned of a total shortfall in financial support of £1billion, due to the failure to increase benefits in line with inflation.

According to the charity and National Energy Action the number of disabled people thought to be in fuel poverty in March 2022 was 900,000 – and it is expected to increase to 2.1 million by the end of the year.

As the energy price cap hike hits, the charity is calling for urgent financial support to prevent more disabled people being plunged into poverty.

Based on inflation rates from last September, benefits have been uprated by 3.1 per cent. However, as the Bank of England is forecasting average inflation of 9.5 per cent over the upcoming year, Scope is warning that the gap will be the equivalent to a shortfall in support of up to £505 for those who face the highest living costs. 

According to the Office for National Statistics, 10 per cent of disabled people are now borrowing money from friends and family to make ends meet.

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Additionally, the government has made the decision to remove the right for people on Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payments (PIP) or Attendance Allowance (AA) to claim the Warm Homes Discount.

This government-backed scheme gives cash to energy providers, which is then passed on as a discount to household bills from October to March.

Under the new rules, it will only be available to those on means tested benefits, but is being increased from £140 to £150.

This change will excluded more than 200,000 disabled people, who currently rely on the discount for vital support, following a consultation from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

James Taylor, executive director at disability equality charity Scope, said the failure to increase benefits showed a “distinct lack of awareness from government that life costs a lot more when you’re disabled”. 

He added: “Disabled people have no choice but to use more energy to charge vital equipment and keep warm. Many rely on their own vehicles to get around. Disabled people have already been cutting back for months and there’s nothing left to cut back.

“The government has said it will uprate disability benefits again next April in line with this year’s inflation, but what are disabled people supposed to do for the next 12 months if they can’t afford basic essentials like food and heating? 

“We are facing the worst cost of living crisis in decades and need action now, not in a year’s time. The government must announce direct financial support for disabled people, and at a minimum, make sure PIP matches rises in living costs.”

A government spokesperson said the Warm Homes Discount is just “one measure” to help tackle rising energy costs.

They added: “Our energy price cap continues to insulate households from volatile gas markets, and we are also providing a £200 reduction on bills this autumn and a £150 non-repayable reduction in council tax bills.”

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