The winter poses unique financial challenges, especially in the lead up to Christmas or if you have essential equipment to run in your home. Planning ahead and accessing support and advice can help
As winter begins, bringing colder temperatures and shorter days, it’s crucial for everyone but especially disabled people and carers to prepare for not only the seasonal changes, but for the unique financial challenges these months can present. From the increased cost of heating, to the added pressure of festive and holiday expenses, winter can put a strain on even the most carefully planned budgets. Despite the challenges that lie ahead, there is specific advice, information and selected support available to disabled people and carers. This can be especially helpful when combatting scams, dealing with debt, coping with higher bills, and even finding ways to save for the festive season.
SEEKING FINANCIAL SUPPORT
For disabled people and family members, accessing financial support can be a lifeline during the winter months. Whether you are currently receiving benefits or carer’s allowance, or another form of financial assistance, it’s crucial to understand your entitlements and ensure you are receiving all of the support you are eligible for. Navigating the advice and support on offer can be overwhelming: contacting an organisation like Citizens Advice can give you accurate guidance and impartial advice on securing the financial aid you are entitled to. As the winter begins, it isn’t too late to explore government schemes and local programmes designed to help with heating costs and energy bills, but many of these, such as the Warm Home Discount Scheme, entail automatic enrolment depending on your age and if you are on any benefits.
DEALING WITH DEBT
With higher heating bills on the horizon, it’s vital to assess your financial situation and see if you can address any existing debt. This is especially important if you also have the cost of running equipment or paying for social care support on top of household bills. Start by creating an overview of your financial situation and creating a budget that outlines your income and expenses. Make sure to prioritise essential support and equipment, medication, heating and food if you can.
If you find that you can’t cover your expenses this winter, or that you will be unable to pay off existing debt, reach out to a debt advice service like StepChange or National Debtline. These organisations can provide tailored solutions and can help you regain financial stability in the longterm. If you find yourself unable to pay your bills during the winter months, reach out to the utility company you are registered with. Often, providers offer the option of a payment plan or a hardship fund for customers who need it most. Contact your provider as soon as possible to explain your information, provide any evidence necessary, and enquire about the available assistance.
Winter brings not only cold weather, but an increase in scams targeting vulnerable individuals, including disabled people and carers. Be vigilant and sceptical of unsolicited calls, emails, or messages requesting personal or financial information, or messages impersonating a loved one. Scammers often impersonate government agencies, utility providers, or charities, attempting to deceive individuals into sharing sensitive details or making fraudulent payments. Always verify the legitimacy of any communications independently and report any suspicious activity to Action Fraud, the organisation they are impersonating, or your bank if you are worried you have given over information that could be used to withdraw money from your account.
HEATING YOUR HOME
Maintaining a warm and comfortable home during the winter is essential for your wellbeing, especially if symptoms of your condition are exacerbated by the cold or damp. It can be difficult to reduce heating costs, but considering simple yet effective strategies can offer a small amount of financial respite.
Ensure your heating system is in good working order and set it to a comfortable but not excessive temperature. Check for drafts and insulate windows and doors to prevent heat loss. It can also help to use thick curtains and blinds to retain heat and prevent cold drafts.
SAVING FOR CHRISTMAS
Encourage family members to turn off lights and appliances when not in use and avoid heating empty rooms. You can access inclusive energy efficient tips from Community Integrated Care through the Taking Charge campaign.
The holiday season is a time of joy and celebration, but it can also strain finances. To avoid the stress of overspending at Christmas, take steps to ensure you are preparing and not spreading yourself too thin financially.
Set a budget and determine how much you can afford to spend on gifts, decorations, and festivities. Plan ahead and start shopping early to take advantage of sales and discounts throughout the year if you can, or consider crafting homemade gifts or personalised presents which can be more meaningful and budget-friendly. If you have a large family, suggest a secret Santa gift exchange among family members to reduce the number of gifts needed and the money spent.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
If you are worried about your financial situation this winter, reach out to the organisations mentioned in this feature or speak to those around you about your concerns.