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Disabled people are again missing out on extra cost of living support – it's cruel and embarrassing

The new cost of living payments are only available to those on means-tested benefits, meaning many disabled people will miss out

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Image: Andrew Khoroshavin from Pixabay

This week the government will be crowing about how they’re supporting vulnerable people as the final cost of living payment arrives in the bank accounts of those on certain benefits. They claim these payments are to help those who struggle most with the rising cost of living, but once again they’re only available to those on means-tested benefits, meaning many disabled people will miss out.  

This is something I first wrote about for Big Issue almost exactly a year ago. Since then, those on personal independence payment (PIP) or its predecessor disability living allowance (DLA) have received just £300, while those on benefits such as universal credit, child tax credits and employment support allowance will have got £900 – that’s on top of the £600 in the tax year 2022/23.  

The Institute for Fiscal Studies found in July 2022 that 44% of the most deprived tenth of the working-age population, or 1.5 million are also disabled – yet 1.1 million of these people don’t get any disability benefits. DWP figures from May 2023 show that 631,873 disabled people on PIP or DLA don’t receive any other benefit.  

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It’s of course unclear to tell from this data why those people don’t receive any other benefit. Maybe some don’t apply because they just don’t need it – after all you can work and claim PIP or DLA. Others could be disqualified if their partner or other members of their household earn too much. This stat also doesn’t qualify if these people are actually ineligible – many either don’t know they’re entitled to support or are put off by the stigma and stress of claiming universal credit. The figure is also eight months old and in that time benefit claimants figures have risen.  

But here are some more up-to-date figures that paint a more clear picture of how hard it is for disabled people. Just last week the Office for National Statistics reported how much disabled people are struggling with the increasingly expensive pressures of winter. Almost half (49%) of disabled adults are finding it difficult to pay energy bills compared with 34% of non-disabled adults. While 39% of disabled adults are struggling to afford their rent or mortgage compared with 33% of non-disabled adults. Nearly a third of disabled adults (31%) say they are buying food with longer shelf life, compared with one in five non-disabled adults. And 27% say they’ve been eating food past it’s sell by date (20% for non-disabled) and 26% are eating smaller portions (18% for non-disabled).  

In October, 8% of disabled adults told the ONS they had ran out of food in the last two weeks and couldn’t afford to buy more, this rose to 18% for disabled renters (5% for non-disabled adults and 13% for non-disabled renters). Then in December, the ONS reported that 40% of disabled adults wouldn’t be able to afford an unexpected expense of over £850, increasing to 66% of disabled renters. As someone who’s just avoided their sick dog costing them a small fortune at the vets I can attest to this.  

It also feels like no coincidence that in the past year we’ve seen a steady increase in how much the government has demonised people in out of work disability benefits calling them “workshy shirkers” who are “coasting on the hard work of taxpayers”. Current plans by the DWP would also make it harder to claim and stay on universal credit with many who can’t look for work losing their benefits, this is despite them not making it any easier for disabled people to find work and the fact that many of us do work (and are therefore taxpayers) while claiming universal credit.  

Another change to this time last year is that I now live alone in social housing, and I receive universal credit as my disabilities mean I can only work limited hours a week, and my income isn’t enough to cover a single-person household. However, as I’ve discovered, they continue to demonise you even if you work while on UC. 

Sometimes for working just a little bit more than the previous month I’ll find myself penalised by a couple of hundred pounds. This stress of scrutiny can put so many off applying because the government constantly breathes down your neck as a disabled person. Although I work, I also still have to see a job coach every six months, who consistently tells me I need to work more and up my income, which again is impossible when I have disabilities that impact my energy significantly and I can’t predict when flare up’s will decrease or fully halt my work.  

That being said, the extra cost of living payments have been welcome in a time of financial insecurity for me and I remember how cruel it felt that I didn’t receive them before due to someone else’s income. So it must feel like a kick in the teeth to disabled people who still haven’t received any extra.  

The Tories are ramping up their hatred for disabled people in the run up to the next election, constantly pitting them against “working people”, but many of us both work and need to rely on benefits. We live in a society that doesn’t accommodate disabled people, to the extent where we still have to rely on benefits despite working, then they demonise us for needing that support. We’re deemed too disabled to participate in society yet not deserving of extra help. 

Despite the Disability Action Plan being announced yesterday, this has done little to lessen disabled people’s worries about the coming winter. This would be due to the fact that the only action from the plan relating to the cost of living is that they will “continue to engage across government to highlight concerns related to disabled people and the cost of living”. I’m not sure what it is they will be continuing when they’ve barely listening to any of our concerns to begin with. 

Disabled people will die this winter without extra support, but maybe that was the government’s plan all along.  

Rachel Charlton-Dailey is an award-winning disability rights journalist, editor author, speaker and activist.

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