More than 70% of disabled households plunged into debt by cost-of-living crisis – poll

More than 70% of disabled households have been plunged into debt this year by the cost-of-living crisis, with four out of five saying the Government has not done enough to help, new research suggests.

Families caring for a child or adult with disabilities are “frustrated” at the lack of urgency from ministers over their increasing financial pressures, according to national disability charity Sense.

Some 83% believe the Government is not doing enough to support them, while almost three quarters – 72% – say the crisis has left them owing money, a poll carried out by Censuswide on behalf of the charity shows.

Some 1,008 parents or family members caring for a disabled person across the UK were surveyed between 17 and 22 August this year.

Among them, 55% admitted to borrowing money from friends or relatives to pay bills, while 77% said the crisis was affecting their mental health.

Two in five – 40% – also say they will go without food to save money, according to the research.

Sense has announced it will give 1,000 households, including someone with complex disabilities, a £500 grant to help them deal with rising costs.

It is the first time the charity has provided financial support on this scale, Sense said.

Keith Butler, whose 21-year-old son Geordie is deafblind, autistic and has CHARGE syndrome, said the grant would help but warned “long-term” support was needed ahead of higher energy prices expected in autumn.

Mr Butler and his partner Helen, from Redditch, Worcestershire, are full-time carers for their son and live on a fixed income made up of Mr Butler’s pension and his son’s Universal Credit.

He said: “One of our biggest expenses is electricity. Geordie is fed through an electric pump, which has to be on charge from lunch through to the evening, every single day. You can’t miss a day, otherwise he can’t eat.

“Also because of Geordie’s sight, we need to have lights on throughout the day.

“We put the same amount into an account each month for utility bills, but in September when the energy price cap rises, this will drain away.”

Chief executive of Sense Richard Kramer (pictured) warned of the “desperate everyday reality” disabled households forced to choose between eating and heating their homes.

He added the next prime minister “must” address the impact of the crisis on disabled households and provide long-term support.

Mr Kramer said: “Disabled people and their families have told us that they are frustrated by the lack of urgency from Government in tackling the cost-of-living crisis.

“We have already seen a huge demand for support, which reflects the massive cost-of-living challenges facing the individuals we support and their families.

“Our research illustrates the desperate everyday reality of disabled households across the UK, who are in debt and facing impossible decisions such as whether to eat or heat their homes.

“Everyone is affected by rising prices, but disabled households are one of the hardest hit because of their circumstances.

“Many are in poverty, less likely to be in full-time work and face higher costs for energy for essential equipment and the additional costs of disability.”

It comes as separate research showed a quarter of people living with multiple sclerosis cannot afford to heat their homes.

An opt-in survey running from 24 April to 16 May attracted 1,108 respondents, 25.4% of whom said they could not keep their property warm.

The number rises to 38.7% if respondents who claim means-tested benefits, such as ESA or UC, are isolated.

The research, carried out by charity the MS Society, has been published amid devastating predictions for Friday’s new energy price cap.

Mother of three Kelly Green, who lives with the condition, said she did not know how her family would cope with the rising cost of fuel bills.

“We’re in so much debt. The bill is £240 a month and I’m so behind on payments, I already owe £1,600 – I just don’t know how we’ll cope when it goes up even more,” she said.

“I have to choose between feeding my kids and feeding myself. I often eat just one meal a day so that I can afford to give my kids three meals.”

Anastasia Berry, policy manager at the MS Society, said: “The situation is critical, and it’s only going to get worse.”

She added: “We urge the next Prime Minister to urgently roll-out a new cost-of-living package.

“This must provide additional financial support to those in receipt of welfare benefits and others on low incomes.

“It must also include expanding the Warm Home Discount Scheme to more disabled people.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “We understand how difficult current pressures are for people with disabilities and their carers, that is why we have put a strong financial support system in place including personal independence payment, Universal Credit and carer’s allowance for the millions affected.

“We recognise living with a long-term illness or disability can impact on living costs, and therefore, as part of our £37 billion package of support, we are supporting six million disabled people with an extra £150 payment, landing in bank accounts from September 20.

“Eight million low-income households will also be receiving at least £1,200 of direct payments this year. We urge people to check they are getting all the help to which they are entitled.”

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