One in three disabled people (32%) have cut back on energy consumption in the past 12 months according to new research by the disability charity Scope.
In a representative survey of more than 500 working age disabled people the charity found that over quarter (29%) – which equates to an estimated 2 million people across the UK – have struggled to pay their energy bills in the past year.
The research comes as the UK is set to be hit by an arctic weather3 front this weekend.
In order to keep up with energy payments the charity found:
- One in four (24%) have turned off their heating even though the house was cold
- One in six (18%) have worn a coat indoors
- One in seven (15%) have borrowed money (from either friends or family or a bank)
Life costs more for disabled people and for many that includes higher energy bills. Scope’s analysis of the Living Food and Cost Survey shows 554,000 disabled households spend over £3,000 a year on energy, compared to the average UK household that spends on average £1,345.
Jenny, 44, from Cambridge has fibromyalgia and her mobility is impaired. She said:
“Winter for me is hell because heating bills are so expensive.
I am on a pre-payment meter so I can’t get into debt, but nearly all my money goes on bills. I can never make ends meet. I’ve had to turn the heating off completely when it was cold.
I wear extra layers and wrap myself in a blanket when it’s cold as I cannot afford to keep my heating on throughout the day.
When it’s really cold, I go to bed after tea at 5pm to keep warm. I have depression due to the worry and stress of having to make the choice between heating or food.
My son has asthma and a cold home makes his condition much worse.”
Mark Atkinson Chief Executive at disability charity Scope, said:
“It’s appalling that in 21st Century Britain that disabled people have been forced to cut back on heating, wear a coat indoors, skip meals or borrow money as they struggle to cope with their energy bills.
Disabled people frequently have to use more energy because they can be less mobile, need to regulate their body temperature, or have to charge specialist equipment.
Life costs more if you are disabled. Scope research shows that these costs add up to on average £550 a month, and higher energy bills play a significant part.
Energy companies must get better at identifying disabled people when they initially become customers and work with them to help them manage their energy spending throughout the entire time of their contract.”
To tackle this problem the charity Scope is calling for:
- Better identification of disabled customers by energy companies to ensure they are accessing available support for their energy bills.
- Promotion and better awareness of the Priority Services Register (PSR) and the Warm Homes Discount among disabled people.
- A shared definition of ‘vulnerability’ within the energy industry to ensure consistency in the support provided to disabled energy consumers.
Notes to the editor:
For more information contact Warren Kirwan in the Scope press office on 020 7169 7702 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Research carried out by Opinium Research between 20 and 28 December 2016 with 501 disabled UK adults. The sample has been weighted to reflect a representative audience. The research also sheds light on how these energy costs impact on other areas of life.
- One in eight (13%) have skipped a meal.
- While nearly one in ten (8%) have delayed or missed bill payments.
There are currently 6.9 million working age disabled people in the UK (Family Resources Survey 2014/15). If this estimate was to hold for all working age disabled people that would equal 2 million people in the UK.
Energy cost estimates are based on Living Food and Cost Survey 2014, which is the government’s survey on household spending. It is based on over 5,000 households in the UK. We have defined a disabled households as one with at least one disabled person.
Priority Services Registers (PSR) – the research found that three quarters (74%) of disabled people hadn’t heard of the PSR.
There are at least 889,000 fuel poor households in England with a disabled person, which constitutes over 37 per cent of all fuel poor households – that’s a significant and identifiable section of the energy.
In qualitative analysis by the Extra Costs Commission, disabled people and families with disabled children rated energy as a moderate to high cost.
In research carried out by the charity Contact a Family, 36 per cent of families with disabled children have needed a loan to pay for heating.