This is a question and answer piece with the charity Disability Rights UK. This is the third in a series of interviews which further explore the impact of the cost of living crisis on individuals and charities.
How is the recent rise in the overall cost of living affecting people with disabilities?
The cost of living crisis shows no signs of abating. Indeed, facts and statistics show that it is getting much harder for both the Disabled and the care community as the gulf between income and expenditure is almost unattainable.
We, both at Disability Rights UK and the DPCG (The Disability poverty campaign group, a countrywide coalition of disabled people’s organisations, charities and relevant organisations), are witnessing families and individuals now struggle to afford the basics of life. For instance a recent survey by Leonard Cheshire found that over 600,000 Disabled people are currently living on less than £10 a week and that a quarter (surveyed in 2022) had missed meals or not heated their homes. This tragic instance of food poverty is shown in statistics released by the Trussell Trust that showed even back in 2021 that more than six in ten (62%) working-age people referred to food banks in early 2020 were disabled. There is also the fact that many Disabled people are now making drastic decisions on what essential day to day equipment, such as powered wheelchairs, through to floor lifts and ceiling track hoists, they can do without as energy costs are spiralling. It is a food and fuel crisis.
What support do you need from government?
Ourselves at the DPCG had hoped that there would be an urgent rise in all benefits to match the current rate of inflation, indeed it was one of our main policies asks when the group was formed early in January. However the government earlier this week rejected a call from the Work and Pensions Committee for benefits to rise before the annual review in April. An uprating of 3.1% was applied to most Department for Work and Pensions benefits in April this year, however, inflation has been steadily rising and was 10.1% for July. Without an increase in benefits, Disabled families, individuals, and carers will be pushed below the poverty line.
How has this crisis impacted upon your ways of working?
The recent cost of living crisis has not affected us as an organisation at Disability Rights UK, in fact at the DPCG it has only strengthened our numbers. Historically, charities across the country, all doing excellent and selfless work along with DPOs (Disabled peoples organisations), have been working on separate agendas, often working apart with little signs of collective solidarity. However, this crisis is unique in that it has transcended this and there is a collective passion and determination to see that all Disabled people do not get left behind in this crisis—that their voices are heard, and that the problems be resolved. In times of crisis, it is proved that collaborative work can breed results and by all working together under the DPCG banner we are showing that we will expend every resource we have to engage with policymakers and the media, as well as each other.
As the cost-of-living issue continues and the tragic statistics continue to roll in, what we need is open engagement with those in power who make all the decisions that affect every aspect of a Disabled life. It is imperative that those most affected by this crisis should be allowed to be involved in its solutions. For instance, we have written to the new Prime Minister Liz Truss to ask for engagement and to action immediate responses such as increasing benefits now, to ensuring Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG) care recipients receive an emergency uprating at the statutory level—at least in line with the predicted rise in inflation by 1 October 2022—and to revising the eligibility criteria for the Warm Home Discount (WHD) to reinstate eligibility for the 300,000 disabled benefit claimants whose entitlement to the rebate was wrongfully removed earlier this year
There is a great deal to do across the country and within organisations to change the course of this crisis. Historically, Disabled people have always faced discrimination in employment, inadequate social security payments (benefits), and unfair charges for care—and the time for a resolution to historical, present, and future failures is now. Disabled people deserve equality and to lead happy, secure and safe lives with every opportunity to expand them available.
For more from NPC on how to respond to the cost of living crisis, read our new guidance here.