Martin Lewis: We need to focus on the vulnerable

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Money saving specialist Martin Lewis said a greater focus was needed on the vulnerable group, warning: “These people have no voice.” The mother of one severely disabled child said: “The health system has spent millions to keep her alive. But after that society has effectively abandoned her.” Those with disabilities are particularly susceptible to price hikes because millions rely on energy to charge medical equipment such as electric wheelchairs, feeding pumps, and oxygen tanks, leaving them less to spend on other essentials such as food.

Experts warn that some families are turning off heating to reduce energy bills or missing hospital appointments because they cannot afford the journey. Others are spending hours of the day in bed to keep warm or rationing meals.

As the UK prepares for another rise in energy bills next month, leading disability charities are urging the government to offer more help to ease the financial pressure. Money saving expert Martin Lewis has highlighted their plight,

They say disabled people are being pushed to use food banks and will have to stay in unwashed clothes to prioritise keeping medical equipment such as ventilators running.

Around 900,000 people with disabilities are in fuel poverty, according to charities Scope and National Energy Action. If bills rise, they warn this could reach 2.1 million.

New research from the disability equality charity Scope shows disabled people are more than twice as likely to have a cold house and three times as likely to not have been able to afford food. 76 percent of disabled people who have seen rising living costs have had to cut household spending.

Recent research by the Food Foundation also shows disabled people with severe conditions are five times more at risk of food poverty than non-disabled people.

Journalist and TV presenter Martin Lewis has challenged health secretary Sajid Javid to “champion” those people “and make sure we don’t disable their lives.”

He said: “Sajid Javid said he would get back to us but we are still waiting to hear what help there will be. I cannot help these people. They have no choice.

“If your child needs dialysis you cannot tell their parent to do this less to save energy. These people have no voice. Many with disabilities, such as those with Multiple Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy and some with severe illness have specific energy needs.

“This can come from people whose condition means they cannot regulate their body temperature, for those who need to do extra washing because unfortunately their clothes get soiled, and those with equipment that needs to run all the time such as people on dialysis, those who use electric wheelchairs, oxygen and a whole host of other things.”

It was common for additional energy costs to reach £5000 a year, and this will only rise, he said.

“You do not need to be a money saving expert to say this is unsustainable and unaffordable.”

Richard Kramer, CEO of charity Sense, said: “Rishi Sunak said he would stand by people… but disabled people feel forgotten, ignored and abandoned. Life costs more for disabled people. They have now reached a crisis point with benefit rises falling far short of the rate of inflation so are cutting back on food and heating. The government must think again about helping disabled people who need to run equipment.”

Nicola Slator, 55, cares for her 21 year old daughter Rebecca who was born with problems with her heart and breathing that left her with the mental age of an 18 month old. She has hearing and sight problems, is unable to eat food and needs oxygen.

Nicola, a single mother of two and former civil servant from Bradford said: “We have had to turn the heating to 10 degrees and Rebecca gets chilblains on her feet because she is so cold although I cover her in blankets and extra clothes. Her sheets need regular washing but I have to ration the use of the washing machine as well as the use of the kettle to sterilise her tubes. “Disabled people feel abandoned and forgotten. The health system has spent millions on Rebecca to keep her alive. But after that society has effectively abandoned her.”

A Government spokesperson said:“We know that living with a long-term illness or disability can impact on living costs and financial support is available to those with disabilities, or those who care for them.

“We urge people to check whether they are receiving all of the benefits to which they are entitled, and to be aware of the wider support this opens up, including help with transport, broadband or prescription costs.

“In addition, the Government is taking decisive action to help more than 27 million households with rising energy costs, with a £200 reduction on bills this autumn and a £150 non-repayable reduction in Council Tax bills. The energy price cap will also continue to insulate millions of customers from volatile global gas prices and our £1 billion household support fund is helping the most vulnerable with essential costs.”

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