The disabled man scared he will lose his independence if energy bills continue to rise

  • Full report by ITV Wales' Kate Lewis

“They don’t think about people like us.”

That is how Rhys Bowler feels in light of the current cost of living crisis

The 35-year-old from Pontypridd, has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. He lives alone with support of carers, but said he feels his independence could be lost if his bills continue to rise. 

"I might have to move back in with my mother."

"For someone like me, independence is everything. It's what I've stood for for 25 years, so that would be devastating. "

While Rhys receives benefits, he knows that if the cost of living crisis continues, it will not be enough to cover his monthly outgoings.

He estimates his electricity bill could be in the region of £2,000 a year by April next year and he cannot simply cut back on the electricity he uses.

He uses a ventilator to breathe, throughout the day - one is in use, whilst the second is constantly on charge.

"Basically if my ventilator were to run out I would die due to a lack of oxygen so it is quite a serious predicament."

His hoist, which he requires to go to the toilet, and his mattress also require a constant power supply. There is his motorised wheelchair which must be fully charged at all times to allow him to move around his flat. 

Rhys uses technology to help him communicate with people throughout the day.

Rhys only has use of his one thumb so technology is of great importance. He uses his computer to turn on his lights, his heating and as a means of communication. Through his computer, he is able to call his carer or make emergency calls.

But all of it is becoming increasingly expensive to run. 

In response to the current energy crisis, the disability equality charity Scope said the government is "failing disabled people". and warns lives are at risk.

It comes as anxieties remain high over the UK government’s refusal to confirm whether it will keep the promise to up-rate benefits in line with inflation.

Scope have conducted research which show two-thirds of disabled people fear they will not be able to afford to heat their homes this year.

A survey of 1,000 disabled adults, published on Tuesday also showed:

  • Almost half (48%) of those who will not be able to cover all their energy bills and essentials say this will negatively affect their health.

  • Half (51%) say they are concerned about affording food. 

  • Almost a quarter (23%) of disabled people are on pre-payment meters, putting some at immediate risk of being left without life-saving equipment. 

  • 3 in 5 (60%) disabled people feel the government is ignoring them.

  • Only 1 in 7 (13%) of disabled people feel supported by the government’s support package. 

'Disabled people are at risk of freezing and starving to death'

James Taylor, director of strategy at Scope said: “There can be no doubt we are in a life-or-death situation. We are on the brink of a disaster, where many disabled people can’t afford the energy they need to stay alive, and face getting cut off.  

“Heating can be life-changing for disabled people. Some disabled people rely on extra heating to stay warm as they may struggle to regulate their body temperature. Others may need to power energy intensive equipment such as ventilators. Being forced to go without can have deadly consequences."

The UK Government has responded by saying, "We know that living with a long-term illness or disability can impact on living costs, which is why we are supporting six million disabled people with an extra £150 payment.

“This is part of the £37 billion package of support, which will see eight million low-income households receiving at least £1,200 in support this year, including £650 in direct Cost of Living payments and all households will also receive a £400 discount on their energy bills.”