Today (23 March) Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivered his Spring Statement with multiple measures to try and tackle the current cost of living hike, but many disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) expected greater support for the community in the announcement.
Within the Spring Statement, the UK’s Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a host of measures in an effort to tackle the current cost of living crisis. These measures include:
- A 5p cut to fuel duty coming into force at 6pm on 23 March 2022.
- An increase in the National Insurance threshold from July 2022.
- The doubling of the UK’s Household Support Fund to £1bn from April 2022.
- The scrapping of VAT on home energy saving measures like solar panels.
- A decrease in the basic rate of income tax from 20 per cent to 19 per cent by the end of Parliament in 2024.
The delivery of the Spring Statement came after inflation rose to 6.2 per cent earlier today. While the measures announced are a step forwards, the current social care crisis remains with many DPOs concerned at its absence in the statement.
Richard Kramer, chief executive of Sense, says:
“For many disabled people the cost of living crisis is about the difference between living and surviving.
“They already face higher living costs, paying more for essential goods and services, and the fear is that spiralling costs will push many into debt.
“The support for disabled people and their families is inadequate – we need to increase welfare benefits to avoid catastrophe.”
Tim Cooper, chief executive of United Response, says:
“The spring statement does little to alleviate the increasing and crushing cost of living on disabled people.”
“Rocketing food and energy prices compounded with changes to the Warm House discount, which will exclude a huge number of disabled people, highlight just how badly exposed the most vulnerable in society currently are.
“By not uprating benefits in line with inflation, the government is abandoning those on the lowest incomes without adequate protection. And, with no dedicated support package the disabled community has been dealt a sharp blow once again. The disabled people we support deserve better than the lack of commitment seen from the government today.”
Edel Harris OBE, chief executive of Mencap, says: “Despite promises to fix social care, despite years of underfunding, and an increasing crisis in the workforce, it is bitterly disappointing not to see any additional funding going into the sector. People with a learning disability, their families and those working in social care are already paying the price of a system ravaged by the pandemic – and things look set to get worse with inflation on a steep rise.
“People have told us that their loved ones with a learning disability are stuck at home because of the absence of support. Over 70% of those we surveyed said they spend less time outside the house compared to before the pandemic and half of those say reduced social care support is part of the issue.
“We welcome the work over the past six months to begin to reform social care, but this could be put at jeopardy by not adequately funding the system now. We need to see an urgent cash injection for social care and longer-term funding targeted at supporting decent pay rises for social care workers – many of who are paid far too little and will be hit hardest by the ever increasing cost of living.
“I know that the Chancellor has had tough decisions to make in this Spring Budget and things are extremely tight for everyone. But please don’t turn your back on people with a learning disability and their families, and the social care workers who do such amazing work to support people.”
Anastasia Berry, policy co-chair of the Disability Benefits Consortium and policy manager of the MS Society says:
“The Chancellor’s Spring Statement demonstrates the government’s inability to comprehend the devastating impact of the cost of living crisis on many disabled people, including those with MS. Despite inflation, fuel costs, and food prices skyrocketing, they have chosen to push through a reprehensible real terms benefits cut – forcing people deeper into poverty.
“Living with a condition like MS can be relentless, painful and disabling, and recent analysis from the Disability Benefits Consortium shows that some of the hardest hit disabled people will face an unthinkable real terms cut of £592 per year.
“Talking about a cost of living crisis while pushing through a real-terms benefits cut is like telling someone about a storm while drilling a hole in their boat. The government must increase benefits levels in line with inflation, or disabled people’s health will suffer even more.”
Angela Matthews, head of policy at Business Disability Forum, says:
“We are disappointed that there was little in the Chancellor’s statement today to address the disproportionate impact of the rising cost of living on disabled people.
“Many disabled people experience higher living costs than non-disabled people simply because they have to spend more money to live near-equal lives. This has always included costs associated with medication, adaptions, and transport. Disabled people tell us that they are, now, also having to use their own money to get access to urgent procedures and treatments to ease pain, such as lymphatic drainage and physiotherapy.
“The rise in energy prices is also particularly affecting disabled people. People who rely on electrical provision twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for breathing equipment, for example, are being bit hit hard by rising energy costs. The Government has already arranged financial support for some groups, but there has been no mention of this being matched for disabled people.
“BDF welcomed the commitment the Government made in July 2021 to create an Extra Costs Taskforce to review the costs incurred by disabled people. The Government has since said that it will launch the taskforce this summer. It is hoped that the taskforce will create a long term and sustainable approach to keeping the extra costs of being disabled down. But an immediate, short-term, response is needed – now.
“We are still waiting to see how disabled people will be involved in the Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ agenda announced in February. Addressing and meeting the extra costs which disabled people experience is non-negotiable if levelling up really is to be a reality for everyone. Disabled people literally cannot afford to wait any longer.”
Disabled people have also expressed their concerns at the lack of additional support. Lynn Pinfield from West Lothian lives with relapsing remitting MS and claims Employment Support Allowance, she says: “At the moment all I think about is money and how I’m going to be able to pay the next bill – it’s exhausting. Increasing benefits by 3% means I’ll get an extra £7 every two weeks – that’s nothing! The government need to figure out what people are actually spending and how much they need to get by.
“I’ve read that energy bills could rise by 54% and I’m terrified. If my bills double it’s going to be awful, that will be £120 a fortnight. I’m a single parent, with three kids and grandchildren. Things are really tight as they are, let alone if bills go up. I worry about is getting my credit card paid off, I hate being in debt.”