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Fuel shortage affecting disabled people

an esso patrol station at night
an esso patrol station at night Image credit: standard.co.uk

The fuel crisis has had a dramatic effect on people with disabilities with panic buyers filling up their cars at the pumps.

Carers are also feeling the brunt, with many worried that they do not have enough petrol to complete their shifts.

The i newspaper spoke to two disabled drivers who are struggling through the fuel shortage.

Sarah from East Sussex has chronic fatigue syndrome and a single mum.

The 41-year-old said: “I need the car for everything, because my walking distance is very short. I have to park near where I am going.

“In my area, they are only opening the petrol station at 11pm at night, and they shut it at 6am in the morning because it is attached to a supermarket. That means in order to get fuel I have to go out in the dead of night. I can’t do that, firstly, because there is no one to watch the children, but it has such a negative impact on my health.

“There is a payback on everything with ME, I could lose two days through running an errand at night time. I can’t lean on two forearm crutches and control the heavy petrol guns at the same time, either, and I’ve no idea whether there will be anyone to serve a disabled person at the pumps that late at night.”

She added: “It is also stressful and frightening. If I have to take a kid to A&E, it is going to be even more worrying. At the moment, I’m not using much fuel, and hoping it will all go back to normal. It is scary, it is worrying, and it is very, very isolating.”

Fuchsia Carter, 37, from Sussex relies on her car for vital trips to the local hospital.

“I am a wheelchair user, and because I live in a village and there is no bus I have to drive,” she said.

I have to do physio every day and make regular hospital appointments. And I have been running out of petrol.

“On Saturday, it was pouring down with rain. I waited until 6pm in the evening. I thought, no idiot is going to be out in this. I got to a service station at a BP and it was queuing up. There were 10 vehicles around me and all packed in.  

“I didn’t join the queue, I pulled over to where the trucks were parked. I flashed my blue badge, told the service manager I only had about 100 miles left and I had to get to hospital in Brighton on Monday. She agreed to let me in. The horns started blaring at me when I moved my car past the queue. People were not happy.”

“There was a guy standing next to my car with a jerry can,” she said. “The server told me I could only fill up £40-worth of petrol.  And the man leaned into my window and said, ‘You don’t look very disabled, let me look at your legs. Why do you get special treatment?’

“I had to do up my window very quickly. After the manager had taken my payment, he refused to move, and I had to drive around him to leave.

“I need to go to north London on Friday, and I don’t want to go. It is not about getting the petrol for me, it is the violence I may face jumping the queue. It is anxiety inducing. I have seen the punch-ups on TV and I can’t protect myself. If someone decides to pull me through the window, that’s it.”

Responding to the concerns Emma Vogelmann, lead policy advisor at Scope, said:  “Last week I got a message from one of my carers saying that if she wasn’t able to get fuel that day, she wouldn’t be able to get to me for her night shift.

“In the end, she was able to get petrol just a couple of hours before her shift. I need 24-hour care so it is pretty important that they get to me. I’m just really planning it day-by-day at the moment to make sure they have enough petrol.

“It has been really stressful, thinking that not only do you have to worry about the Covid risks of having people come in and out of your home, but what is the impact on me if I can’t get them to come in.

“Worrying about the situation I might find myself in, which could be life threatening to me. I could die very easily, and that is not an easy thing to think about by any means.”

Louise Rubin, head of policy and campaigns at Scope, told i the charity has heard from “desperately worried disabled people” concerned they will not receive the care they desperately need.

“Others have told us that they are being left without any means of travel, as their local public transport is not accessible and they rely on their car to get around,” she said.  

“After the last 18 months of the pandemic, where many disabled people were isolated and routinely forgotten, this is causing yet more anxiety. We urge the public not to panic-buy petrol, to consider the needs of key workers and disabled people and only fill their tank when it needs filling.”

The fuel crisis is due to a shortage of HGV drivers transporting petrol between stations across the country.