Disability benefits for millions ‘will be rendered worthless’ by soaring energy bills

Millions of Britons with disabilities or long-term illnesses will see their benefits wiped out by skyrocketing bills, new figures reveal.

Energy bills are expected to reach around £5,386 a year by January, but benefits to help the 2.9 million people who receive a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) are not expected to increase until April 2023 .

Charities warn people with disabilities will be among the hardest hit groups over the winter and are already being forced to cut carer numbers amid rising costs of living.

Of those applying for PIP – the main disability benefit for people of working age – 590,435 do not receive any other type of social benefit. In April, the average weekly PIP price was £113.2, or £5,887.96 per year.

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This means that from January, PIP claimants will be hit with energy bills representing 91% of their annual payments, according to the Labor Analysis. Those with the most complex needs depend on care services that require large amounts of electricity, such as wheelchairs and feeding devices.

Disability equality charity Scope said people had already “started to reduce or stop the amount of care and support they pay for – and it will only get worse”, adding that ” life is more expensive for people with disabilities”.

Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: ‘Disabled people will face a devastating winter if ministers allow these energy price hikes to continue.

“The services supposed to help people cope with the additional cost of their disability will be rendered worthless by the increase in the energy bill. This zombie government has nothing to say about supporting people with disabilities in the coming months. It’s a shame.”

Rosey Clements has complex disabilities and needs

(Clement family)

It comes as new research from disability charity Sense shows that rising food and energy costs have put nearly three-quarters (72%) of families with a disabled child or adult into debt.

Of 1,000 households surveyed, another two in five told the charity they would go without food this winter to save money.

Last week Ofgem announced that the energy price cap for a typical household would be £3,549 a year from October 2022. This means 60% of an average PIP price will be wiped off on bills of energy, according to a job analysis.

But the latest forecast from Cornwall Insight suggests the price cap will rise to £5,386 a year from January 2023, putting even greater pressure on disabled people with high energy needs.

Rosey Clements, from Norwich, has complex disabilities and, due to a lack of mobility, struggles to regulate body heat. The 23-year-old eats via a feeder pump, sleeps in an electric bed, uses an electric hoist and is monitored through the night by two cameras.

Her mother, Yvette, said: “A disabled household faces many additional costs. For us, the most important thing is energy, which, with rising costs, is putting real pressure on us.

“She [Rosey] has to be bathed instead of showered due to her condition, and because she’s not mobile she doesn’t regulate heat well, so we have no choice but to turn on the heater to keep her warm – or the fans to keep her cool when it’s hot.”

Geordie with his father Keith Butler and Keith’s partner Helen

(Butler/Sense family)

Labor’s analysis also shows that the growing cost-of-living crisis will negate the payment of Beneficiary Assistance Allowance. The benefit is granted to people over the legal retirement age who need help with personal care or supervision due to illness.

The average weekly attendance allowance is £78.68 (equivalent to £4,091.36 per year). Under the price cap estimated in January, 1.4 million claimants face energy bills representing 132% of their annual benefit.

Likewise, families with a disabled child will face bills amounting to 116% of their Disability Living Allowance (DLA) – a benefit for 590,984 children who have care or mobility needs. The average weekly DLA price is £89.07 (equivalent to £4,631.64 per year).

These figures likely underestimate the impact of energy price increases, as people with disabilities typically have higher than average energy needs associated with managing health conditions.

All government benefits are being adjusted in line with inflation, but no increases will be implemented until April 2023, by which time the worst effects of winter and the cost of living crisis will have passed.

Tom Marsland, head of policy at Scope, said last week’s price cap announcement “confirmed the fears of people with disabilities” for the coming winter.

“Life already costs more for people with disabilities,” he said. “Now the cost of recharging a wheelchair or using a breathing machine will have almost tripled in a year.

“Government support specifically targeted at people with disabilities will not touch the sides.

“We’ve been inundated with calls from people with disabilities who don’t know where to turn and feel like they’re being punished for using more energy.

“The government must intervene now. They should start by doubling the assistance package and consider introducing reduced rates for disabled customers who need more energy. »

Jonathan Ashworth warns people with disabilities facing ‘devastating’ winter ahead

( Provided)

Keith Butler and his partner Helen live in Redditch, Worcestershire, and care full-time for their son Geordie, 21, who has Charge Syndrome, autism and deafblind.

“While we try to economize and be careful, we have no choice in the additional costs we face supporting Geordie,” Keith said.

“Electricity is one of our biggest expenses. Geordie is powered by an electric pump, which must be in charge from lunch to evening, every day. You can’t miss a day, otherwise he can’t eat. Also, because of the view from Geordie, we have to have lights on all day. »

Sarah White, policy officer at charity Sense, said: “Everyone is affected by rising prices, but disabled households are one of the hardest hit because of their situation.

“Many live in poverty, are less likely to work full-time, and face extra costs for essential goods and services, like recharging their wheelchairs or running an oxygen machine.”

A spokesman for the Department for 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 financial support system including PIP, universal credit and carer’s allowance for the millions affected.

“We recognize that living with a long-term illness or disability can have an impact on the cost of living, and through our £37billion support program we are supporting 6 million disabled people with a additional payment of £150, landing in bank accounts from September 20. .

“Eight million low-income households will also receive at least £1,200 in direct payments this year and we urge people to check they are getting all the help they are entitled to.”

About Antoine L. Cassell

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