48% of disabled adults have had to cut back on energy use, think-tank finds

A gas fire Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Disabled people are almost twice as likely to report being unable to afford to keep their home warm than the non-disabled, according to a think-tank.

Around two-fifths (41%) of disabled people said they could not afford to keep their home warm, as did just over one fifth (23%) of people without a disability, the Resolution Foundation found.

Almost half (48%) of disabled adults said they have had to cut back on energy use this winter, as have nearly a third (32%) of people without a disability.

Nearly a third (31%) of disabled people reported having to reduce their food spending, alongside 18% of people without disabilities.

Because of the wide range of disabilities, there will be important differences between how people are affected, the Foundation said.

Those who are housebound or suffering limited mobility, for example, may be more affected by rising heating bills due to increased time spent in the home.

The report combined statistical analysis with a new YouGov survey of just under 8,000 working-age adults, with more than 2,000 saying they have a long-term illness or a disability.

The findings indicate disabled people account for nearly a quarter (23%) of the working-age population, up from 17% in 2013.

The report also noted disabled people are far more likely to be poor than the rest of the population.

A third (33%) of adults in the lowest 10% of household incomes have a disability, compared with 9% in the highest 10% of incomes.

The income gap is partly explained by the relatively low employment rate for disabled people, although in-work disabled people face an increased risk of being on lower incomes too, the Foundation said.

Just over half (54%) of the working age disabled population is in work, it said, compared with fourth-fifths (82%) of the non-disabled population.

Recently-announced Government support, which includes the repeating of the £150 disability cost-of-living payment in 2023, will help millions of people with disabilities in the short-term, the Foundation said.

But it said further measures will be needed and should ideally have a broader focus on lower living standards for the disabled population and support for those who wish to work and those who cannot.

Charlie McCurdy, an economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: “While fast-rising prices for essentials is impacting people across the UK, people with disabilities are more exposed to the most severe effects, with two-in-five now unable to heat their homes and almost one-in-three cutting back on food expenditure.

“This means people with a disability – who account for a third of the poorest households in Britain – will require additional protection during the cost-of-living crisis, which the Government has acknowledged through their cost-of-living payments.

“But more policy work will be needed, not just through this crisis but to make more progress on closing the huge income gaps that already existed between disabled people and the rest of the population.”

The Government recently gave more details on the payments schedule for the latest round of cost-of-living support, following on from previous payments.

New £900 cash support for more than eight million eligible means-tested benefits claimants, including people on universal credit, pension credit and tax credits, starts in the spring and will go directly to bank accounts in three payments.

There will also be a separate £150 payment during summer 2023 for people with disabilities and a £300 pensioner payment during winter 2023/24.

A Government spokesperson said: “This Government is committed to protecting the most vulnerable and we recognise disabled people face additional costs.

“As part of a £37 billion package of support, we supported six million people with a disability or health condition with an extra £150 payment last year while millions of low-income households received at least £1,200 of direct help, including £400 towards energy costs over 2022-23.

“In addition, disability benefits will be increased in line with inflation for 2023-24 and we are making £900 of new cost of living payments to those on means-tested benefits next year, with a further £150 disability cost of living payment to those on disability benefits.

“We have a range of initiatives to help disabled people start, stay and succeed in work, including tailored work coach support, to help boost incomes further.”