‘It will get worse!’ Disabled people being forced to gamble on energy firms’ tariffs

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There are at least 14 million disabled people in the UK, with many directly dependent on energy for their survival.

Gemma Hope, director of policy at disability charity Leonard Cheshire, said: “Many disabled people can’t afford to gamble on energy firms’ social tariffs, but inconsistency in terms of availability means they are forced to do just that.

“Energy rises aren’t the only cost to contend with, and there is little in the way of relief or financial aid on the way. It’s only set to get worse.”

Changes to eligibility for the Warm Homes Discount will see at least 300,000 disabled people lose eligibility for vital financial support at a time when they need it most.

Millions of people are contending with a rise in energy bills, food and fuel prices, as well as rocketing inflation.

Kamran Mallick, the chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “Energy companies have been offering people things like heated blankets to stay warm. It beggars belief that this kind of insulting measure is all that is left on the table.

“Disabled people have energy costs directly linked to keeping us alive and mobile. We simply don’t have the choice to switch off appliances. Many of us are living in life-threatening penury. And we need money, not loans, and not blankets, to survive.

“Benefits are supposed to be a dignified safety net for anyone who needs them. Benefits should help disabled people make up the shortfall in our costs of living – on average it costs £600 a month more to live with a disability.

“There are huge holes in those nets right now.”

Of the 14 million people currently living in poverty, half are disabled or have a disabled person living in the household, Mr Mallick said.

He added: “We need long-term solutions to help us live our lives. The solutions are nothing but breadcrumbs.”

Richard Kramer, chief executive of national disability charity Sense, said: “Disabled people already face higher living costs, paying more for essential goods and services, like heating, insurance, equipment and therapies. The fear is that spiralling costs will push many into debt.

“Disabled people and their families now face horrendous decisions, such as whether they can afford to have a meal, run the washing machine or put on the heating. “For many, the cost-of-living crisis is now about the difference between living and surviving.

“We need government to recognise the lived experience and pressures facing of disabled people and their families and provide targeted financial support for those most exposed to the increasing costs. We are also urging energy suppliers to identify their disabled customers and offer extra support.”

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