Disabled people denied £650 help with rocketing cost-of-living bills

Disability Benefits Consortium issue message to Rishi Sunak

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Those who claim new-style ESA, Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) do not qualify for the £650 boost that those on means-tested benefits do. Nor do those on the Attendance Allowance, Armed Forces Independence Payment or War Pension Mobility Supplement.

Back in May, Rishi Sunak, then the chancellor, unveiled a multi-billion-pound support package for hard-up Britons struggling with soaring inflation and energy bills.

He announced that more than eight million households on means-tested benefits would receive a £650 cost-of-living payment and disabled people would get £150.

Since then, inflation has hit a 40-year high of 11.1 percent in October and energy bills continue to soar.

Research by disability charity Scope showed that disabled households in the poorest fifth percentile spend almost twice as much of their household budget on energy bills.

They are also more than twice as likely to have a cold house and three times more likely to be unable to food. In order to combat this “disastrous situation”, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced that disabled people will receive a second £150 cost-of-living payment in April 2023.

Mr Hunt also said the millions of people on means-tested benefits such as Universal Credit will get £900 of new support. But those on certain disability benefits who were excluded by Mr Sunak in May will miss out on this vital cash once again.

Scope says around 400,000 disabled people on new-style ESA were not eligible for the £650 payment.

Louise Rubin, head of policy and campaigns, said: “We know hundreds of thousands of disabled people are not eligible for the £650 payment. Some will be on low incomes and others have sky-high energy prices. Life costs more if you are disabled.

“We’ve been inundated with calls from disabled people who have cut back on everything they can.”

The Daily Express’s End Disability Bills Crisis crusade is calling for the £150 payment for disabled people to be brought forward.

And we would also like to see people on new-style ESA, PIP, DLA, Attendance Allowance, Armed Forces Independence Payment and War Pension Mobility Supplement receive the £650 aid.

One campaigner says the only way to “avoid a humanitarian disaster” is to ensure the latter is given to all who receive a disability or ill health benefit.

Dan White of charity Disability Rights UK said: “This is an absolutely unacceptable situation. Small one-off payments are not the long-term answer. We urgently need a systematic solution.” Fellow campaigners insist this needs to be implemented now to protect millions of disabled people over a cold and expensive winter.

Paralympian Anne Wafula Strike, 53, a wheelchair user, said this change would make a “huge difference” for those being pushed further into poverty. In the winter of 2019-2020, some 8,500 people died due to cold homes. This winter “that could be a splash in the ocean”, said Disabled People Against Cuts activist Linda Burnip.

A Government spokesperson said it is “committed to protecting the most vulnerable”.

I can’t afford to eat properly

Wheelchair user Aidan Wood feels as if he is “treading water” at the moment – and he hasn’t had a “decent meal” in months because of soaring costs. The 42-year-old, from Cardiff, has neurofibromatosis which causes neurofibromas – rare, tumour-like growths – on his lower left leg and body.

He relies on New-Style ESA and Personal Independence Payment, so is not eligible for the £650 cost-of-living payment – only the £150 boost for disabled people. Aidan said: “I’ve gone from spending around £30 a month on gas to £30 a week. With electricity, it was £25 a month, which has risen to £25 a week roughly.

“I can’t even afford to eat properly, and I can’t turn off my heating, so I have no choice but to pay extortionate rates.”

The main struggle for Aidan has been with his benefits. He feels he is being “punished” for not being able to work, having missed out on a £500 cost-of-living boost this year, which would have “helped massively”. Aidan added: “I’m currently feuding with DWP. I don’t qualify for anything, but the amount I get in benefits isn’t enough to even cover the essentials.

“People on all benefits should qualify for all of the cost-of-living payments. I’m not getting the extra help I need to survive and this needs to change.”

Aidan will get £125 more each month when benefits are uprated in April, but he said this will not be enough to help him “live a decent life” or even leave the house.

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