Weekly Poll – Cost of Living Crisis (Week Beginning 18 April 2022)

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 18 April 2022, we asked a question about the cost of living crisis. Please note that this is a snapshot of the views of our membership and does not reflect a policy stance of Disability Equality Scotland. If you plan to reference the findings featured in this report, please contact us in advance so that we are aware of this.

Results

Question 1. How concerned are you about the current cost of living?

  • Very concerned – 85% (86 respondents)
  • Quite concerned – 11% (11 respondents)
  • Not very concerned – 2% (2 respondents)
  • Not concerned at all – 2% (2 respondents)
  • Don’t know – 0% (0 respondents)

Question 2. Do you think there is enough support in place to address the rising cost of living?

  • Yes 3% (3 respondents)
  • No 97% (98 respondents)

Comments

We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.

Cost of Living

The cost of living is a measurement based on the amount of money you need to cover everyday expenses, such as energy, food and transport. At present, the cost for essentials are increasing so much that the national wage cannot keep up resulting in a cost of living crisis. It is predicted that overall costs to households will go up by at least £1,100 in 2022. Most respondents (85%) stated that they are ‘very concerned’ by the current cost of living and reflected on the increase in energy, fuel and food prices.

Energy

Energy prices are rising as the wholesale cost of gas and fuel have increased as supplies are low. Ofgem announced the energy price cap of up to 54% by Spring 2022. This will increase household energy bills by an average of £700 a year. Disabled people are more likely to have higher energy needs than non-disabled people as they may need heating on for health reasons or use electricity to power vital equipment. Disabled people are more likely to be living in poverty and will have less income to cover the increase in costs.

“The increase in energy costs is extremely worrying – it just isn’t affordable anymore especially given the fact that being disabled means that I am housebound most of the time which and as a result I tend to require more heating. I’m growing increasingly concerned for my elderly neighbours – they are also house bound but more susceptible to cold weather and I am concerned that a cold winter next year will lead to illness and death.”

“Electricity costing me more and have various specialist equipment that I can’t switch off. At the moment, I am muddling through, but I am dreading if it gets to the stage where I start struggling and I have to make decisions on what to stop paying for such as the MECS emergency system etc”

“Very little is being done to support vulnerable individuals who require a large pull on the national grid, or a large draw from gas and/or other fuel. These people can be patients or family members being cared for at home, care homes, including but not limited to compassionate care, special equipment needs, or individuals like those on here that need electricity, gas, and/or any other fuel just to stay warm or safe within the home environment.”

“I’m on 24/7 oxygen therapy and the cost is severe, 250 pounds a month for electricity bill, less than 25 pounds a month back from the oxygen supplier. I don’t think I will be able to heat my home at all this year which is risky because the reason I am on the oxygen is because the last two years I have been in hospital with pneumonia.”

“I am disabled and need heating in my home on 24 hours as I suffer from differing conditions which are affected by cold. It now means I can’t afford to put my heating on as it costs so much and there is very little help out there.”

Respondents were concerned that energy prices are due to increase even further in October. According to the latest predictions from energy analysts Cornwall Insight, the cap could increase by 32%.

“My wife and I are on Universal Credit and we’re very scared about the near future. Energy wise we’re ok until October but what then? We pay £100 per month for gas and electric but after October they want £321 because it’s fixed price. That’s way more than 54%.”

“The price cap on gas and electricity bills has already gone up and food prices are also increasing as well. Unfortunately for many people it will be a case of either heating or eating next winter and of course we have another increase in the price cap due in October so tough times ahead.”

“The rise in household energy is unbelievable, not sure how things will become October. I just find the whole thing a money-grab by energy companies; ridiculous.”

Food 

Due to increased costs and supply-chain disruption, supermarkets and other businesses are also raising their prices. The Chief Executive of Scotland Food and Drink, James Wither recently stated that some food prices could rise by as much as 50%. Disabled people reported having to resort to cheaper food brands and it was noted that some people will resort to using food banks.

 “Shopping has become a case of finding what is affordable – it’s a case of simply getting what I can afford rather than what I like. It’s just depressing especially since prices are still going up. My disability money is no longer going towards managing my disability, it is going towards just living.”

“I have diabetes and the food prices are rising across the board but more on the healthier foods.”

“I have had to seriously change the food I eat as I can’t afford to buy what I used to.”

“Prices for food and utility costs are having a great impact on me and I have already felt the pressure as I have started to fall behind with paying my bills and subscription charges.”

“Disabled people that are impacted by what they eat (e.g., Crohn’s, diabetes) will find rising food prices a double blow if it affects what they are able to eat.”

“Food inflation is a major risk going forward – I have not heard of any policies to help people with this apart from relying on food banks which isn’t a long-term solution.”

“People are plunged into massive debt and forced to use food banks, which is absolutely horrendous in this day and age.”

Transport

 Due to ongoing fuel increases, respondents reported having to reduce their car use. This had resulted in some disabled people becoming more isolated.

“We have had to take our vehicle off the road as we can’t afford diesel so are now housebound. Shopping is now online delivery so I can try and budget, but no medication is now affordable and I cannot afford to eat properly.”

“I’m not the only one in this situation, times are very hard for everyone as prices just keep rising. I no longer go out as much as I can’t afford the price of fuel so in a word, life is crap.”

“We live in a rural part of Angus with public transport being very limited, so we have to have a car. Yet another expense that keeps rising.”

Support

To help offset the increase in costs, grants and schemes are being offered for those who are eligible. However, there was overwhelming consensus from respondents (97%), that existing support does not go far enough to address the rising cost of living.

Energy Bills Support Scheme

The UK government announced the Energy Bills Support Scheme, which is a £200 discount on energy bills which will need to be paid back in the next 5 years.

“With price rises set to stay and the general cost of living rising, it doesn’t feel like enough to get a loan for £200 that you then have to pay back anyway as for many of us, that will soon be used up for the increase in a few bills’ time and then it is another debt to repay with money already short.”

“The £200 loan is wholly ineffective – rather than easing the burden on users, it will in effect be an interest free loan to energy suppliers. Where everyone is going to feel the squeeze, those of on fixed incomes will feel it more.”

“The government could do a lot to help people. The £200 “loan” is a joke. Suspending green levies on bills would help in the short term as would removing or reducing VAT. These wouldn’t stop the cost of living crisis but would help – at the moment the only promise we have is a tax cut in two years time. People will die before then. This shouldn’t be acceptable in one of the richest countries in the world.”

Council Tax Rebate

The Scottish Government announced a £150 Council Tax Rebate Payment for households in Bands A-D and an additional £10m for the Fuel Insecurity Fund.

“The £150 from the Scottish government hasn’t helped because of the way it has been applied. Instead of getting money which I could use for gas, electricity or groceries, I’m getting £10 a month off my council tax for the next year, which is not as much help.”

“I am disabled, and my husband works part time. We have no savings, and we need help now straight into our pockets, not given to our local council. Someone needs to do something about this mess.”

“The £150 tax rebate is welcome, but will it really go far enough?”

Social Security

Means-tested payments such as Universal Credit, and the state pension have risen by 3%. However, official figures show that prices are rising twice as fast, and they are expected to accelerate further. Respondents believed that both the Scottish and UK governments can offer greater support to disabled people through social security grants and payments.

“Disabled people are still having to fight to access benefits that are rightly ours, and benefit increases are not keeping pace with rising food costs. This is utterly disgusting when energy companies are making record profits and the rich get richer by the day.”

“Bring back the Universal Credit uplift.”

“The COVID uplift to Universal Credit should at least be re-instated but legacy benefits which were not uplifted during COVID should also be boosted. Personally, I claim contributions based ESA so do not have access to free or discounted services such as reduced council tax, dental charges, discounted glasses etc. Dental charges for example are also set to go through the roof too and good luck finding a dental surgery now with NHS treatment. For a relatively wealthy country, the UK is not a good place to be if due to a disability you need some help.”

“As a legacy benefit claimant, I did not receive the additional £20 per week that Universal Credit recipients got. So, the cost of living crisis has been hitting me since COVID-19 began. With the increase in fuel costs, my gas and electric doubling and a weekly shop costing roughly £15 more, I am really struggling to make my benefits pay all my bills. The meagre benefit increase just does not cover all the extra I have to pay out.”

“The quietly-announced removal of PIP and DLA applicants from receiving the Warm Home Discount only makes it worse. Over the course of COVID I finally won long-standing disability benefits appeals, but now I’m scared to even spend my backdate in case I need it for heating next winter.”

“As someone living with a disability and receiving benefits, I am very concerned about the cost of living issues as clearly benefits which are going up slightly but will be nowhere near enough to cover everything.”

“We need better targeting to help the poorest. All means-tested benefits should increase by 30%.”

“Benefits must increase adequately to cover the cost of living and I don’t have much faith that that will happen. With the new Adult Disability Payment available in our area, I am hopeful that both mum’s and my application will have more chance of success.”

Windfall Tax

A portion of respondents believed that the UK government must introduce a “windfall tax” on major companies that are making excessive profits due to the soaring costs of energy, food and fuel.

“I’m fed up with these large organisations still making billions when the public are suffering. Fuel prices haven’t come down enough. The public are being ripped off.”

“The government should intervene to assist those who are needing help. Tax the energy /oil providers with a windfall tax.”

“These electric companies’ profit should be capped by the government. They are billions in profit.”

Conclusion

The vast majority of respondents (85%) reported of being ‘very concerned’ by the current cost of living. Disabled people reflected on the increased cost of energy, food and transport, and the detrimental impact this is having on their quality of life. There was overwhelming consensus that greater support must be in place to address the rising cost of living. It was suggested that social security grants and funds must increase as prices are currently rising twice as fast, and they are expected to accelerate further.