Government support falling short for disabled Brits in energy crisis

Hundreds of thousands of disabled people in the UK will face a huge £1,000 hike in energy bills – but planned government support will fall woefully short, warns disability charity, Leonard Cheshire.

Jonathan using a washing machine at Eden Square
  • More than 3 million working aged disabled adults rely on heating more often due to their disability and will face bills of up to £3,483.10 this winter.
  • But a lack of government support will leave hundreds of thousands of disabled people with a £1000 shortfall to cover soaring costs.
  • Disabled people will be left out of pocket and in the cold this winter without further government action.

Analysis by the charity highlighted the desperate plight of disabled people already struggling to make ends meet. Research found that more than 3 million working aged disabled adults need to keep their heating on more often due to their disability, leaving many anxious about energy price hikes in the winter months.

While measures have been announced to provide some financial relief to disabled people, including those on Universal Credit, the charity say that without targeted support, a large proportion of disabled people will be left out of pocket and in the cold. A public health emergency is looming with winter drawing ever closer.

Recent government energy announcements around the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG), stated that the average household energy bill will rise to £2,500 per year. Yet over 3 million disabled people with higher energy bills are set to face sky-high bills topping £3,483.10. Disabled people often use more energy to keep warm and charge disability equipment.

Disabled households with high energy usage, claiming only the disability benefit Personal Independence Payment (PIP), for example, must now find an extra £1,005.70 per year for energy bills alone, even after government support measures announced in May.

The charity heard that some disabled people were not leaving the house and missing medical appointments as they could not afford to charge their wheelchair.

Many say they are “petrified” of what will happen when the weather gets colder.

One campaigner said people were dreading the winter ahead and living with huge stress and anxiety. Other disabled people told the charity they have to sit under duvets to keep warm and are missing meals due to rising prices.

Another said:

“I am eating one meal a day. The cost of living means my grocery bill has doubled. I also have lots of electrical machinery that always has to be connected to electricity, pushing energy bills higher and leaving little money to live on.”

Gemma Hope, Director of Policy at Leonard Cheshire, said:

“For many disabled people, the cost of living crisis is turning into a cost of living emergency. Government support is not going far enough and many are desperate for more targeted support as they struggle to pay for sky high energy bills rising again in October. No one should be penalised for their disability. The government needs to act now by increasing benefits in line with inflation, and keeping them in pace with inflation moving forward. Disabled people can wait no longer.”

Leonard Cheshire is also calling for immediate government action to restore eligibility for the Warm Home Discount (WHD) for everyone on Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or its predecessor, Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

Nowhere left to cut

Our briefing looks at the impact of the cost of living crisis on disabled people and our recommendations on how the government can provide better support.

Read our briefing

Notes for editors

The huge extra amount to be paid by disabled people with high energy use takes into account the government support package. Leonard Cheshire’s research factored in the cost of living payments announced by former Chancellor Rishi Sunak and the Energy Price Guarantee, which comes into force on 1 October.

The charity’s calculations included an average cost of £3483.10 for a high energy user from April 2022 to the end of March 2023. The charity used fixed price figures from the Energy Price Guarantee and ‘high usage’ figures from British Gas. See below for further details.

Appendix: More about Leonard Cheshire calculations

Leonard Cheshire research demonstrates that even with the government support outlined thus far, disabled households with higher energy usage who only claim PIP, will need to find an additional £1005.70 per year, the equivalent of £19.34 per week.

Those on Personal Independence Payment (PIP) but who are also eligible for the Warm Home Discount must still find an extra £855.70 per year, or £16.45 per week.

This comes after our February 2022 research which showed 600,000 disabled people were living on £10 a week after bills.

Read our full calculations