A third of disabled people will be forced to cancel Christmas this year, as they struggle to cope with unbearable costs. That’s according to grim new research by the national disability charity, Sense, who is urgently calling for more financial support to help the most vulnerable households this winter.
Spiralling costs have put more than half of disabled people into debt, and two-thirds say they are constantly worried about bills. Now, as the country looks forward to the Christmas holidays, many disabled people say they won’t be able to celebrate.
A third (33 per cent) of disabled people told Sense that they will not celebrate Christmas this year because of the financial pressures they face. More than a third (34 per cent) said they will not see any friends or family or buy any festive food (37 per cent). Almost half (48 per cent) said they won’t buy any presents, while two in five (42 per cent) will not turn on any festive lights because of fears about the cost of energy.
Disabled people, who often have lower incomes and face higher living costs, have been disproportionately impacted by the current crisis. They face higher living costs, paying for specialist diets and therapies, and for energy too – heating is a must for people who aren’t mobile and have to regulate their body temperature – and then there’s the cost of running essential equipment, such as breathing machines and feeding pumps.
Sense supports people living with complex disabilities, whom the research focuses on. There are 1.6 million people with complex disabilities in the UK, living with two or more disabilities, and requiring high levels of support. Sense has already provided direct financial support to some of the most vulnerable households, worth a total of half a million pounds.
The research reveals the measures disabled households are taking to save money, with more than half (57 per cent) turning the heating down or off, more than a third (35 per cent) skipping meals and almost a quarter (24 per cent) turning to food banks.
In last month’s Autumn Statement, the government announced that welfare benefits would be uprated by 6.7% from April next year. However, Sense says this doesn’t come close to providing disabled benefits claimants with the money they need to afford the cost of essentials, such as energy, continuing to rise.
Sense is calling for emergency targeted financial support now to help the most at-risk households cope with spiralling costs, and a plan to support disabled people and their families in the long term.
Richard Kramer, Chief Executive of Sense, said:
“With disabled people living in debt and worrying about the next bill, it shouldn’t be a surprise that so many are cancelling Christmas plans.
“And yet, today’s research is a timely reminder of what some of the most vulnerable households in the country are going through.
“Every day, disabled people are having to make impossible choices, like whether to eat or heat the home. And Christmas, far from being a time for celebration, has just become an additional, unbearable expense.
“It doesn’t have to be like this. The government must act now to bring in targeted financial support to those who need it over the winter.”
More than 80,000 people have signed Sense’s petition calling on the government to do more to support disabled people through the cost-of-living crisis. For more information or support, please visit: www.sense.org.uk/costofliving.