Father from Bristol cannot afford energy bills to care for disabled daughter

A father from Bristol says he struggling to afford care for his daughter, who has a life-limiting condition, due to the rising cost of energy.

Nick Flaherty's daughter, Rhia, has a rare metabolic condition meaning she cannot walk and can barely see or hear. She can only communicate by touch.

Nick and his wife look after their 13-year-old daughter at their home in Long Ashton in Bristol.

Nick Flaherty cares for his daughter Rhia at their family home in Long Ashton. Credit: ITV West Country

Nick said: "Rhia is now on a ventilator overnight, which helps her breathe. We also have night staff in, so we have some of the lights on.

"In the winter, you need the heating on because the carers work here. In this really hot weather we've had fans on because Rhia has epilepsy. If she has seizures, she can stop breathing so we need to keep her cool."

To supplement disability benefit and funding from various charities, Nick has had to take out various loans over the years to pay for home adaptations and medical equipment.

Nick estimates that he has accumulated around £50,000 worth of debt and is concerned that is only gone to increase.

Nick says his energy bill has gone up by £300 a month. Credit: ITV West Country

"It's harder as a working family, because you don't qualify for a lot of the help," Nick said.

"If you earn a reasonable wage, you don't qualify for a lot of the means-tested support, even though you might be drowning in debt.

"You have to demonstrate that you are in crisis. You literally have to be on your knees, crying to get support.

The energy bills at Nick's family home have already skyrocketed. He used to pay £150 a month and that has now increased to £450.

Nick has had to take out a number of loans to pay for Rhia's care. Credit: ITV West Country

Also, the amount it costs to fill up their wheelchair-adapted car has double, from £60 to around £120.

Rhia has a life-limiting condition, so her family want to enjoy every moment they have together and not worry about costs.

Nick added: "To have more money to pay more bills, would mean more work and less time. How do you balance all of that? It's a struggle that every family faces.

"I'm not going to tell my daughter she can't have the ventilator on, because we can't afford the energy costs."