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Disabled people twice as likely to face debt amid cost of living crisis: 'The system is broken'

As disabled people are hit doubly hard with debt the cost of living crisis, disability charity Scope is calling for government action

woman worried about debt

Disabled people are more likely to struggle to afford the essentials they need to survive. Image: Pexels

Disabled people are twice as likely to have been pushed into debt during the cost of living crisis, new research has revealed.

The disability charity Scope has found that almost one in three disabled people (29%) face debt, compared with 16% of non-disabled people.

James Taylor, executive director of strategy at 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.”

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Scope’s research shows that disabled people face extra costs of £975 a month on average, meaning they are more likely to be pushed into debt or struggle to afford the basics they need to survive.

“Life costs a lot more when you’re disabled,” Taylor added, “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.”

Of the 2,000 disabled adults surveyed, 38% said they were not putting on their heating when cold because of the cost of living. More than one in three (34%) said they were skipping meals, eating less or buying lower quality food because they couldn’t afford it.

The Big Issue has reported on the failures of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to provide adequate support to disabled people – with people often refused disability benefits and left to face a stressful appeals process.



The new figures from Scope come as the weather gets colder and people across the country are notified as to whether they are eligible for the warm home discount, a one-off £150 payment to help low-income people with the cost of energy during the winter.

But Scope warns that this support from the DWP is not enough for disabled people, many of whom will not be eligible for the discount.

“Lots of disabled people need the heating on more for our health,” Taylor said. “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.”

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

The charity is continuing its calls for a social tariff, a discounted energy bill for those facing higher energy costs. It’s designed to ensure those in greatest need can live comfortably in their homes.

Three-quarters (74%) of people support discounted energy bills for disabled customers, according to Scope.

“We need action now,” Taylor said. “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.”

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