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Stark financial inequality faced by disabled people and their families

Wednesday 27th February 2019

New living standards research by disability equality charity Scope has uncovered the astronomical living costs faced by families with disabled children, leading the charity to call on the Government to act urgently. The report reveals the significant impact on families such as:

  • Families with disabled children face, on average, extra costs of £581 per month, with almost a quarter looking at more than £1000 extra. This price tag is calculated after welfare payments designed to meet those costs have been taken into account.
  • Disabled people's money doesn't go as far: £100 for a non-disabled person is equivalent to just £68 for a disabled person. 
  • A quarter (24%) of disabled families would like to replace old clothes but cannot afford to, compared with one in ten (11%) non-disabled families.
  • 40% of disabled families would like to, but cannot afford to, replace worn-out furniture compared with 24% of families without disabled children.

Life costs more for disabled families because they have no choice but to spend more on essential goods and services like heating, therapies, toys and equipment.

Essentially, these extra costs mean disabled people are left with less money in their pocket than non-disabled people, or they simply go without. They are likely to have a lower standard of living than non-disabled people, even when they earn the same.

Amanda Batten, CEO of Contact, said: "The findings revealed in Scope's report published today will come as no surprise to many families with disabled children. Extra costs have always been an issue for the families Contact supports, but it's something that has become much more pronounced in recent years as the cost of living has risen and financial support has been slowly chipped away.

"Of course, rising living costs affect all of us, but because it costs more to raise a disabled child these increased costs have hit the families we support particularly hard. According to Contact's own research, disability costs have gone up in the last four years too. There can be a staggering difference in price for everyday items like a car seat for a non-disabled child (around £100) for example, compared to a car seat for a disabled child (around £2000).

"Families tell us that heating, transport, therapies and special equipment are the biggest expenses they have. At the same time vital local services such as respite, home to school transport and NHS therapies being reduced, charged for, or removed altogether due the pressure on local authority and health budgets.

"As a result more and more families are forced to pay privately for therapies that you expect to be free through social care and the NHS such as physiotherapy and speech and language therapy. It's important to remember that these aren't luxuries - they are essential to keep disabled children well and able to do everyday activities that others take for granted like eat, talk, leave the house and go to school.  

"Disability benefits are there to cover the extra costs families with disabled children incur, but our research shows that they are insufficient with only 19 per cent saying that the disability benefits they receive cover the extra costs linked to their child's disability.

"All this means that families with disabled children are particularly vulnerable to living in poverty, more likely to be on lower incomes due the difficulty of combining working and caring and claiming a range of benefits across the system.  Until the extra costs of raising a disabled child are recognised and families are provided with the support they need, the impact for many is likely to be increased debt, stress and ill-health."

Find out more about Scope's new research.