Millions of Brits with long-term disabilities or illnesses will be wiped out of their benefits by rising utility bills, new figures reveal.
Energy bills are projected to reach an estimated £ 5,386 annually by January, but the benefits for helping the 2.9 million people who receive the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will not increase until April 2023.
Charities warn that as a result people with disabilities will be among the hardest hit groups during the winter and are already forced to cut carers due to the skyrocketing cost of living.
Of those who apply for the PIP – the main disability allowance for people of working age – 590,435 do not receive any other type of welfare allowance. In April, the average weekly PIP premium was £ 113.2, equivalent to £ 5,887.96 per year.
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It means that, as of January, PIP applicants will be hit with energy bills that represent 91% of their annual payments, according to the job analysis. Those with more complex needs rely on assistance services that require large amounts of electricity, such as wheelchairs and power devices.
Disability equality charity Scope said people have already “started to reduce or stop the amount of care and support they pay for – and the situation will get worse,” adding that “life costs people more. disabled “.
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “People with disabilities will face a devastating winter if ministers allow these energy price increases to continue.
“The benefits that are supposed to help people with the added cost of their disability will be rendered useless by the increase in energy bills. This zombie government has nothing to say about supporting disabled people in the coming months. It’s a shame”.
It comes when new research from the Sense charity shows that rising costs for food and energy have put nearly three-quarters (72%) of families with a disabled child or adult in debt.
Out of 1,000 families surveyed, another two out of five told the charity that they will run out of food this winter to save money.
Last week, Ofgem announced that the energy price cap for a typical household will be £ 3,549 per year from October 2022. This means that 60% of an average PIP premium will be wiped out by energy bills. , according to a work analysis.
But Cornwall Insight’s latest forecast suggests the price cap will hit £ 5,386 per year from January 2023, putting a strain on disabled people with high energy needs.
Rosey Clements, from Norwich, has complex disabilities and, due to lack of mobility, struggles to regulate her body heat. The 23-year-old eats via a fuel pump, sleeps in an electric bed, uses an electric lifter and is monitored all night by two cameras.
Her mother, Yvette, said: “A disabled family faces many additional costs. For us, the bulk is energy, which is really putting pressure on with rising costs.
“She [Rosey] it needs to be washed instead of showering due to its condition and, as it is not mobile, it does not regulate the heat well, so we have no choice but to have the heater on to keep it warm or the fans to keep it cool in hot weather. “
The work analysis also shows that the rising cost of living crisis will nullify the attendance allowance payment for beneficiaries. The benefit is granted to people over the state retirement age who need help with personal care or supervision due to an illness.
The average weekly attendance allowance premium is £ 78.68 (equivalent to £ 4,091.36 per year). Below the estimated January price cap, 1.4 million applicants face energy bills that cost 132% of their annual benefit.
Likewise, families with a disabled child will face bills costing 116% of their disability allowance (DLA), a benefit for 590,984 children who need assistance or mobility. The average weekly DLA premium is £ 89.07 (equivalent to £ 4,631.64 per year).
These figures probably underestimate the impact of energy price increases, because people with disabilities generally have higher than average energy needs associated with managing health conditions.
All government benefits have increased in line with inflation, but any increases will not be implemented until April 2023, by which time the worst effects of the winter and the cost of living crisis will be over.
Tom Marsland, head of policy at Scope, said last week’s announcement of the price limit “confirmed the fears of people with disabilities” for the coming winter.
“Life already costs more for the disabled,” he said. “Now the cost of charging a wheelchair or using a respirator will almost triple in one year.
“Government support specifically aimed at the disabled will not touch the sides.
“We have been inundated with calls from disabled people who don’t know which way to turn and feel punished for consuming more energy.
“The government must intervene now. They should start by doubling the support package and try to introduce discounted rates for disabled customers who need more energy. “
Keith Butler and his partner Helen live in Redditch, Worcestershire, and care full-time for their 21-year-old son Geordie, who has Charge syndrome, autism and is deafblind.
“While we try to save money and be careful, we have no choice about the extra costs we face to support Geordie,” said Keith.
“One of our biggest expenses is electricity. Geordie is powered by an electric pump, which must be in charge from lunch to evening, every single day. You can’t miss a day, otherwise he can’t eat. Also because of the sight of Geordie, we need to have the lights on all day ”.
Sarah White, head of policy at the Sense charity, said, “Everyone is affected by the price hike, but disabled families are one of the hardest hit due to their circumstances.
“Many are in poverty, less likely to work full-time and face additional costs for essential goods and services, such as loading their wheelchair or operating an oxygen machine.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said: “We understand how difficult the current pressures are for people with disabilities and their carers, which is why we have put in place a strong financial support system that includes PIP, credit universal and caregiver allowance for the millions affected.
“We recognize that living with a long-term illness or disability can impact the cost of living and, as part of our £ 37 billion support package, we are supporting 6 million disabled people with an extra £ 150, which will arrive on bank accounts from 20 September.
“Eight million low-income families will also receive at least £ 1,200 in direct payments this year and we urge people to verify that they are receiving all the help they are entitled to.”