New research by the national charity Turn2us has found that over two-thirds (67%) of people with disabilities on low incomes are struggling to afford their energy costs, despite being in work.
Worryingly, of those who are struggling, over half (51%) have done so for more than a year.
The research reveals that nearly two-fifths (37%) of all low income workers with disabilities have missed one or more payment to their energy supplier in the last twelve months. Over a quarter (29%) are struggling with other essential bills, with Council Tax topping the list of payments they’re behind on (32%).
As the weather turns colder, the research also uncovers how low income workers with disabilities will cope with these costs through the winter. Of those worried about their energy costs, a huge 72% feel they will have to cut back on or not use their heating, whilst over half (53%) said they would resort to cutting back on food. A third (33%) anticipate that the stress of energy bills will exacerbate their health problems.
There are 2.3 million households living in fuel poverty in England alone*, and it is estimated that nearly half of these are in work.** As debate continues around proposed cuts to the tax credits system, there is growing concern that household finances could be even harder hit from next year.
Turn2us’ research also suggests a lack of awareness of the help that could be available to disabled people on low incomes, or potential reluctance to access it. Of those who are struggling to pay their energy costs, only 7% have turned to an advice organisation for help. Almost three-quarters (72%) have not checked their eligibility for welfare benefits in the last twelve months, whilst 76% are unaware that some energy suppliers have charitable trusts set up to help certain customers.
This winter, Turn2us is running its No Cold Homes campaign specifically to help more people who are unable to afford to heat their homes. The charity is encouraging anyone in financial hardship to use its free online service to see if they are eligible for welfare benefits, charitable grants and other support – additional income which could help them manage their energy costs over the colder months.
Simon Hopkins, Chief Executive of Turn2us said: “Our research paints a startling picture, revealing the extent to which families are struggling to heat their homes, even though they’re in work. It is clear that more needs to be done to help raise awareness of the financial support and other help available to people on low incomes to help them manage their energy costs.
We know that this is an issue that affects a wide range of people, and alongside working households, many others will suffer this winter. We believe that no one should have to live in a cold home. Through our campaign, we urge anyone struggling to check what support could be available.”
The No Cold Homes campaign runs from 18 November to 16 December 2015. As part of the campaign, Turn2us is hosting an online celebrity clothes auction (30 November – 9 December) to raise awareness of people’s struggles to heat their homes, and funds to help more people affected.
For more information, please visit www.turn2us.org.uk/NoColdHomes.