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Disabled people can’t afford cost of living

person taking spare change out of a purse
person taking spare change out of a purse Image credit: rochdaleonline.co.uk

Research shows disabled people are living on a poverty borderline being forced to choose between food and vital essentials after facing a £583 penalty.

A study by Scope highlights the extra cost of living finds families with disabled children over £1,000 out of pocket compared to families with a non-disabled child.

Sarah Park, 41, has spina bifida, the part-time call centre worker is struggling to afford essential items, such as food.

She told Mirror Online: “If I didn’t have friends and family giving me bags of pasta, microwavable meals and things for the freezer, I wouldn’t be able to eat.”

It’s not just the price of meal times which is giving Sarah sleepless nights, she is also finding it difficult to afford vital equipment so she can keep her independence.

“I needed a new wheelchair recently which cost £4500, but the voucher from wheelchair services was only for £1300. Between that and the huge rise in cost of living, all my savings are gone, and I can’t cover essentials anymore,” Sarah said.

Ms Park lives by herself in Bedford, she rarely leaves the home because she can not afford petrol or social gatherings and has been signed off work with stress and anxiety.

Her financial situation has slumped to a new low, she now haS to limit how many hygiene products she buys despite her condition causing problems with her bladder.

“Incontinence pads cost £4 for seven and I need at least two a day. I am changing them less frequently or going without because I cannot afford them anymore. This results in more accidents, washing, water and electricity as well as costly detergent.”

She added, “I can’t afford to put the heating on but because of my health issues, but the circulation in my legs is very poor and I need to stay warm.

“Being cold places more strain on my circulation, which is already impaired, and the extra demand may reduce my level of oxygen, trigger a host of cardiovascular problems, or cause my blood to thicken and form blood clots.

“It feels very much like disabled people are getting it from all sides and the gap for us is becoming much greater than it ever has been. I can’t work more hours or get a second job. So what am I supposed to do?”

The government’s Personal Independence Payment (PIP) supports disabled people with the cost of living, but for a majority of claimants the payout does not cover their daily needs.

Podcast producer Lydia Wilkins from Sussex has autism, she said trying to claim PIP was the “most stressful time of my life”.

It took her 15 months to win a tribunal case so she could eventually claim the benefit.

Lydia, 23, who has to reapply for PIP next year, said: “Disabled individuals like me have to advocate so hard for ourselves all the time because we are not believed. It’s exhausting and stressful.

“I am anxiously anticipating repeating the humiliating rigmarole to prove that I am autistic enough to receive the basic standard of support.

“Some say disabled people are so resilient, but resilient people crack. That’s what this feels like to be pushed to prove yourself all again. It’s unfair and horrible.”

The Disability Rights’ Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi Both Carr said, “Disabled people face a wide range of extra costs. Food can be more expensive for us – we often need to use ready meals or buy from small shops near to home.

"Energy costs us more as we need to do more laundry, run lifesaving and mobility equipment and many of us need extra heating. Day to day transport options are out of reach and we often need to use accessible taxis and we need to pay for extra personal care, and help around the house.

“The cost-of-living crisis is hitting disabled people very hard, particularly people on benefits or low incomes. The Government must increase household incomes to cover the costs of living for the poorest disabled people.”

A total of 87 percent of UK households reported that their cost of living had increased in the previous month in March 2022.