Disability Cost of Living payment: why £150 benefits top-up will not be enough to manage an energy crisis

Around six million disabled people in the UK are due to receive a one-off £150 Cost of Living payment, but as energy costs spiral, the government is clearly not going far enough to help those in need

In the past year, energy bills have shot up by almost 250%, tightening the squeeze on household finances across the UK. And to a greater extent, life just generally costs more for people with disabilities, with additional spending needed on essential goods and services like heating, insurance, equipment, transport and therapies. These extra charges mean disabled people have less money in their pocket than non-disabled people, or we have to go without. The charity Scope UK has said it can cost an extra £583 more on average a month if you’re disabled.

Close up of patient sitting in wheelchair at healthcare consultation with physician in cabinet (Credit DC Studio - stock.adobe.com)

Consequently, when the government announced today (23 August) that it was planning to pay out £150 to six million people from 20 September as part of a Cost of Living payment, it seemed a bit like putting a bandage on a bullet wound.

Cornwall Insights recently announced that the price cap on energy is likely to increase to £3,582, or 82% above the current cap. They also forecast further increases to £4,266 in the first quarter of 2023 and £4,427 in the second quarter. Furthermore, consultancy firm Auxilione has forecast that energy bills could hit £6,000 by April. In the grand scheme of things, £150 is a drop in the ocean.

Of course, we have been told that all households in England, Scotland and Wales with a domestic electricity connection are eligible to receive a £400 discount as part of the £37 billion cost of living emergency support scheme set out by ex-chancellor Rishi Sunak earlier this year.

Experts have warned that energy bills will soar this winter. Credit: PA

In real terms, however, the energy bill support set out in May was based on Ofgem’s prediction that the price cap was likely to hit £2,800. But with experts predicting the price cap could reach £3,500, this could mean an extra £700 shortfall for households. The question is why isn’t the government going as far as providing the same one-off £650 payment to people on low income benefits and tax credits to those with disabilities?

Plaid Cymru MPs Hywel Williams and Ben Lake have responded to the UK government, calling for the additional payment to be made, with Mr Williams saying it was "completely unacceptable", especially as many of us need equipment like wheelchairs and ventilators, as well as are suffering from conditions which mean we may need to use additional heat to stay warm. He said: “Using less energy is not an option for many disabled people”.

It would actually mean having a choice between “eating or continuing to use life-saving equipment”, as he mentions in his letter to Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey and Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi. And people online have equally been outraged by the lack of support from the government, with many saying this payment will barely scratch the surface when paying monthly bills. After all, more than a quarter of working age disabled people are living in poverty and disabled people are almost twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people.

The charity Disability Rights UK took to Twitter to say that it was “nowhere near enough”.

In the end, a £150 one-off payment is manifestly inadequate and more needs to be done to help vulnerable people.

Find out the latest on the disability Cost of Living payment details on the government website.