Weekly Poll – Cost of Living Payment

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 30 May 2022, we asked a question about the Cost of Living Payment.

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. Do you think the Cost of Living support package announced by Rishi Sunak goes far enough to cover the cost of your energy bill?

  • Yes 4% (9 respondents)
  • No 96% (238 respondents)

Comments

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

Cost of Living Payment

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 is increasing so much that the national wage cannot keep up resulting in a cost of living crisis. It is estimated that a domestic energy bill will rise to £2,800 in October, which is an £800 a year increase, on top of a £700 a year rise which took effect in April.

On Thursday 26 May, the United Kingdom Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced financial support to help with the rising cost of living. Every household in the UK will receive a £400 energy grant. You will not need to contact your energy company as the grant will be automatically applied to every household bill in October and will not have to be paid back.

People receiving Universal Credit and some other means-tested benefits will get an additional Cost of Living Payment of £650. People receiving disability benefits, including Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance (DLA), and Scottish Disability Benefits may qualify for an extra £150 in September.

An overwhelming 96% (238 respondents), don’t believe the Cost of Living support package announced by Rishi Sunak goes far enough to cover the cost of their energy bill.

Extra Costs

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. Respondents believed that the £150 payment for those who receive certain disability benefits does not go far enough to cover the additional costs that disabled people face.

“I think the important issue is that the £150 difference between disabled people and non-disabled people is insulting. It does not reflect the added pressures of increased cost of living to disabled people who are much more likely to have higher energy bills (need more electricity for equipment, need more heat, likely to be at home for more of the day).”

“I believe that the amount of £150 for each disabled person who is on disability benefits is a random amount and that no cognisance has been taken of neither the disability gap nor the extra energy that a disabled person needs simply to keep warm, even in the summer months. Disabled people must be given more consideration instead of being an afterthought especially where Westminster government is concerned.”

“My husband and I are both disabled. My husband is unable to move a great deal and requires steady warmth and regular hot baths. I am his carer but also have a rare disease which affects my ability to regulate temperature (hence I require temperature regulation within the home) and also the constant use of air purifiers to maintain good air quality because my disease badly affects my respiratory system. We have no choice but to use a lot of electricity to regulate our home and maintain a stable environment for us. I just don’t know how we will afford our bills with these huge price rises, even with the Cost of Living Payment.”

“Disabled people on PIP require a lot more support than is being offered, we have a lot more additional costs in relation to energy, our equipment, additional laundry costs, etc, the list goes on and on, yet it is such a pathetic amount that the government is offering.”

Eligibility

Some respondents questioned the eligibility criteria for receiving additional payments for people who receive certain low income benefits, tax credits and disability benefits.

“My wife and I are disabled. My wife gets the state pension and I do not, therefore we cannot get tax credits. I am getting a private pension from my Merchant Navy days which is just enough to take me out of the Universal Credits, which means that the benefits I was entitled to then; I can no longer get, making us worse off. The criteria for the extras that Sunak announced requires that we would need to be in receipt of at least ONE of the benefits to qualify. I would be better off on Universal Credit! Unfortunately, this problem will remain until the end of this year when I become entitled to my Statutory Pension. This is because the age for the Statutory Pension has gone up to 66 but the work pension is still at 65! So, we have a year of poverty!”

“I am disabled and because my husband works, we don’t get extra benefits. I don’t see how people on Universal Credit should get £650 and disabled people should get £150. So unfair.”

“Disabled people not on means tested benefits should also get £650.”

“Although I think it’s a late first step and I’m glad the government have abandoned their ridiculous original plan of ‘support’ package which in effect was an interest free loan to energy suppliers. However, once again those of us still trying to survive on legacy benefits such as contributions-based ESA are again ignored. All the government talk is about Universal Credit or the working poor – no one else seem to matter unfortunately – something I raised with my MP.”

“I don’t think every household needs it either, the Government knows the low income families and pensioners and disabled people need it most. It should be only given to those groups.”

Unpaid Carers

Respondents also raised concerns about the lack of financial support for unpaid carers as those who do not receive means-tested benefits, but do get Carers Allowance, are not eligible for the extra £650 Cost of Living Payment.

“I am an unpaid carer and got no financial support from the Chancellor. Against the backdrop of the costs of living crisis, rising fuel and food costs and the costs for public transport I have to survive on £68 per week and got no help. Unpaid carers are saving the health and social care system billions every day, we are on our knees and continually overlooked for help. This needs to change.”

“I know of one unpaid carer who is really struggling and is facing the decision to give up unpaid caring and take more hours just to cover the increase in bills. The knock-on impact is that there is going to be a disabled person who will need extra help but is unlikely to get any.”

“I think it’s shocking how people who actually save the government money are left out of getting a tiny bit extra. I say tiny bit, as compared to how much they would pay out for care costs in a care home or hospital, and even helping to reduce bed blocking, people are treated like this.”

“For unpaid carers, it is a ridiculous situation. Our youngest daughter helps us for over 35 hours a week and gets a carers premium, but she lives with us. Because of this she will not be entitled to much of the intended benefits that are being paid out. Yet it was on the news that one person with 7 houses is getting payments for every one of the houses! This government seems to be more interested in helping those who are in some kind of employment rather than those that due to their circumstances are unable to work and rely on benefits.”

Social Security Payments

Some respondents believed that social security payments should be increased in order to provide more targeted financial support.

“The best solution would be an increase in means-tested benefits such as Pension Credit. That way the help would be targeted on those who need it the most.”

“There are no increased payments on DLA and PIP to reflect the increased cost of living crisis for disabled people and Sunak’s tokenism of £150 is useless. This is a clear demonstration of discrimination and inequality in support for disabled people from the state and a reflection of society as a whole.”

“It is in the right direction but not enough to cover the rising cost. If the Chancellor did not scrap the triple lock pensions and increased the Disability payment, he might not have to make such a gesture now.”

“Restore the £20 a week Universal Credit uplift.”

Prepayment Meters

Specific comments were shared from people who use prepayment meters. People using prepayment meters, many of whom are already on low incomes, will face even higher costs. They are less able to spread the cost of their energy throughout the year and are at greater risk of being disconnected if they can’t afford to top up.

“I have a pre-paid meter and even when I try to keep it topped up, before the unit costs, the daily standing charges are financially crippling me. I am being forced into disconnection. Please remove the high daily standing charges.”

“People with prepayment meters should be on standard tariff and not penalised for having a prepayment meter. If in social housing with prepayment meters, whether new or existing tenant, it is very difficult to get the utility companies to return these meters back to normal meters.”

“The average rise in energy alone is £1500 yet the assistance is only £400 for people who do not get means tested benefits or just miss out on disability benefits – the just about managing people will really start to suffer, especially those on pre-payment meters who are already in debt to energy companies.”

“People on prepayment meters and disablement often goes hand in hand, and this forces them into more debt, more hardship, more ill health, and that then has the effect of more pressure on the health service. I really don’t understand why governments don’t look at everything and then look again past that. If governments looked at it all like a domino, they would see how each step affects the next one and so on.”

“As someone with a pre-pay meter and receiving £90 a week in benefits, I was shocked when I found out I was in extreme fuel poverty. I always thought this sort of thing happened to other people.”

“I am disabled and as a family we have a prepayment meter. The money that the government announced is not enough. We are on a low income and we can’t keep up to this and the £150 that he is giving for disabled people is a joke. I am sorry but there should be more support. Payments going straight to the disabled person.”

Oil Central Heating 

It was noted that people who use heating oil are also experiencing significant increases to their energy bills.

“Please don’t forget people who live in rural communities and have oil fuelled central heating that has to be purchased in a lump sum with a minimum spend of 500L. This is much more of an initial outlay than someone with a prepayment meter. I had to fill the minimum in my tank last week and what would normally cost me £230 is now £525. This is a 56% increase and unmanageable for disabled people on means tested benefits. Sunak putting £400 on my electricity bill is not going to help me keep warm this winter. In fact, it will sit in the pockets of the electricity company for 6 months while we freeze because our home is heated by oil. I think disabled people in rural communities with oil heating and on income support will freeze this winter if there is not targeted and specific support for this type of utility use and also more of an additional payment for disabled people who are unable to heat their homes and power their equipment right now, today.”

“I am a disabled lady 71, and this money is not enough. In January the cost of oil for 500l was £225. In February it was £600. I have to choose between eating or heating.”

Mental Health

Some respondents noted the negative impact that the cost of living crisis is having on their mental health, and the Cost of Living Payment has not gone far enough to lessen feelings of fear and anxiety.

“With the massive increases in shopping etc this will really not help at all. It also does not lessen the anxiety caused by just how much I will need to spend on energy bills this winter. Very poorly thought out to help that I believe is only trying to distract the public from the partygate scandal.”

“My mental health is all over the place as I am worried that I get to the stage whether to pay gas and electricity and other bills and go with no food or vice versa. I have to admit that I am scared.”

“I feel it’s mostly irrelevant whether someone is disabled, an unpaid carer, or have prepayment meters. Those who already have difficulty paying their fuel bills are those in dire need of financial support, single parents, low income, unemployed. More has to be done financially and to reassure people. In the charity I run I see mental health, stress, depression and anxiety triple already as a direct result and these are all conditions that lead to suicide. More must be done immediately.”

“Unpaid carers are at breaking point with many now suffering from physical and mental health issues. Just not good enough. We play a valuable role in society and it’s not enough to leave us struggling and in poverty.”

“There will be many more cases of depression and suicide due to lack of support.”

Conclusion

When reflecting on the cost of living support package announced by the UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak, an overwhelming 96% (238 respondents) did not believe it was enough to cover the cost of their energy bill. Respondents highlighted the extra costs that disabled people face due to higher energy needs, as they may need heating on for health reasons or use electricity to power vital equipment. There were comments that questioned the eligibility criteria for receiving extra cost of living support. Respondents also noted the lack of financial support for unpaid carers. People with prepayment meters and oil central heating are likely to face even higher increases to their energy bills. Respondents reported of being very anxious about the rising cost of living.