The Autumn Statement left disabled people out in the cold
On Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, our Head of Advocacy Amy Little examines the Autumn Statement 2023 and the energy price cap rise. Amy tells us why disabled people are calling for more financial support.
Disabled people were watching the Autumn Statement closely last week and hoping for vital support. As well as facing a cost of living crisis, many people have extra costs because of their conditions – including higher energy usage. This is pushing some individuals and families to breaking point.
Our research shows that from January 2024, disabled people whose conditions mean they use a lot of energy will face eye-watering costs. Their annual bills will be over £800 higher than the average household.
Distressingly for disabled people, the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement again failed to deliver.
In the same week, Ofgem announced the 5% energy price cap rise for January 2024. This comes at a time when households across the UK are already facing significantly higher bills than last year and the Energy Bills Support Scheme is no longer in place.
So it’s no surprise to see the damning figures from National Energy Action, released just ahead of Fuel Poverty Awareness Day (30 November). The research shows 6.5 million UK households will be in fuel poverty by January 2024.
A social tariff is essential
Many disabled people need warm homes to manage their condition and others have vital disability equipment, which needs powering and charging. Diabetes UK research shows people cooking less to save energy, or switching off the fridge. Having to take these steps makes managing a condition all the more difficult.
Last winter disabled people told us they were rationing their energy use, affecting both their physical and mental health. If this is repeated, lives are at risk. The need for a social tariff is clearer than ever.
For disabled households struggling with their energy bills, this essential discounted energy tariff would protect them from price increases. In last year's Autumn Statement, the Chancellor committed to make energy support more targeted to those who most need it. This has not been delivered for disabled people.
Cost of living support is inadequate
We welcome the Chancellor’s decision to uprate benefits in the usual way – using the September inflation rate (6.7% in September 2023) and avoiding calls to pick a lower rate.
But this is cold comfort to many people facing high prices for food and other crucial items for daily living.
As the Work and Pensions Select Committee reported this month, the existing £150 cost of living payment for disabled people in 2023 ‘barely touches the sides’. We agree.
We’re alarmed that the Autumn Statement contained no new disability cost of living payments, and the Household Support Fund ends in April. The Government recognised last year that disabled people face extra costs. With costs even greater this winter, why are disabled people being left out in the cold?
Get help with the cost of living crisis
Many disabled people face impossible choices and are living day-by-day on a financial knife edge. We've pulled together details on charities and organisations that can provide support.