Learning Disability charity say government must offer more support for the most vulnerable this winter
As prices continue to rise ahead of autumn, learning disability charity Mencap is asking the government to step up support for the 1.5 million people with a learning disability living in the UK.
The cost-of living-crisis could have a devastating impact on the lives of people with a learning disability, many of whom are on low incomes, rely on disability benefits, and who need support to be able to budget and navigate complex information from energy suppliers.
Disabled people pay, on average, £538 a month more than non-disabled people to live the same quality of life1. Many people with a learning disability face significant barriers to accessing financial support, while some pay 40% of their income from benefits to councils through social care charging.
While the government has previously encouraged people to seek work as a resolution to their financial woes, for many people with a learning disability this simply isn’t an option; only 5.1% of people with a learning disability known to adult social care are in work2 while over 60% people who were referred to foodbanks in early 2020 were disabled3.
Many who rely on benefits have seen no uplift in recent months, while the cost of food, fuel and energy continues to rise. Many don’t have any financial cushioning to prevent catastrophe and will struggle to budget and look ahead.
Mencap is urging government, local authorities, energy providers and banks to act now, while there is still time to put measures in place before the winter comes.
Matthew Harrison, Public Affairs and Parliamentary Manager from learning disability charity Mencap says: “Mencap’s position on the cost-of-living crisis is simple – don’t forget about people with a learning disability. The government, the energy regulator and providers and local authorities must step up support for the 1.5 million people with a learning disability living in the UK.
Currently, the government’s interventions are short-term solutions to long-term problems. They will not cushion people with a learning disability and their families from the combined rising costs of food and energy, let alone the additional costs that come with having a learning disability in the first place.
28% of families that include a disabled person are in poverty – that number shoots up to 42% if someone in that household receives benefits4. We want to see more support for the most vulnerable during this crisis. We want to see an uprating of benefits now, as the uplift promised for April 2023 is simply too far away to make a difference this winter.
We want Ofgem to lead the way in making sure the energy companies are looking out for people with a learning disability and vulnerable customers, getting them on the priority services register and providing accessible information.
Mencap is doing everything we can but we need the government, policy makers, and private companies to play their part and make sure that people with a learning disability aren’t priced out and forgotten.”
Mencap have joined a coalition of 70 charities who are all lobbying the government to provide more support for the UK’s most vulnerable people through this crisis. Mencap is asking that people sign the petition calling on the government to invest in a level of social security that is sustainable and sufficient for people to live on.
To sign the petition, head to: www.mencap.org.uk/COLpetition
Priced Out and Forgotten
Shelagh Thompson, 55, from the Wirral has two sons with severe and complex learning disabilities. David, 28 and Karl 26. David is non-verbal.
“The cost of living crisis has hit us hard. The biggest issue currently is with care staff – the money we get from the local authority to pay for their support hasn’t increased, so I can’t offer the rates that larger agencies might. Currently I do 90-120 hours a week of unpaid care myself.
“Getting my sons out of the house is important for their wellbeing but we’ve had to limit activities because of cost. David likes to go on car journeys, but we can’t afford the fuel – now we go for a walk up the road; it’s fine now but not when it’s cold and wet. I don’t like to keep them in the house all day but everything costs money.
“Gas and electricity prices have been a real killer. When there’s care staff here, I’ll leave the heating on overnight for them, but not when it’s just us – it worries me as David often gets cold. Electric heaters are too expensive and I worry it’s going to be freezing in winter.”