May 24, 2024

Why disabled people are spending more to achieve the same quality of life as non-disabled people

When you mention the term “disability tax”, most people look confused. Just like the invisible “pink tax”, where products made for women cost more than the equivalents for men, the Disability Tax, or Disability Price Tag, is similar.

It means you have to pay more for goods and services just to be able to live the same quality of life as a non-disabled person. On top of this, disabled people are being hit harder still, thanks to the cost of living crisis.

I was tallying up monthly expenses after my account went into overdraft when it hit me: What had cost me over £600 this particular month when I hadn’t splurged or bought myself anything new? I live alone currently, so as a single person, everything costs more before my disability is factored in. I tallied up my usual ‘daily living’ bills: Bedding washed and dry cleaned weekly, housekeeper once a week (a lifesaver), hair washed and dried at salon weekly, two food shop deliveries, Deliveroo (God bless it) taxis, extra on gas and electric… And this was before rent, any hobbies – and before the cost of living crisis hit.

There are almost 15 million disabled people in the UK. As one of those with mild cerebral palsy (CP), if I’m to live the same life as everyone else, I must spend the above – before the current crisis, disabled people already faced extra costs of £583 per month on average, according to disability equality charity Scope – on what is typically considered luxuries or treats so that I can manage day-to-day.

My disability, a neurological condition, affects every physical task I do. Disabled people use up to three times more energy just doing basic tasks like getting dressed; I’m often so fatigued that just having a shower feels like a monumental undertaking. I haven’t the strength in my upper body to wash or dry my hair, change beds, stand for any length of time, or even walk to bus stops without my energy levels draining. Gas and electricity can skyrocket as I take more time to shower, cook and get cold sitting still, and so on. Without these essential-yet-costly outgoings, I would not be able to function.

And even with all this, I’m grateful. I can work, and my job allows me to be fully remote when I’m just too exhausted to trek into the office. Sara (25), who lives in Birmingham and also has CP, says she had to stop work entirely when she got long Covid.

“By the time you pay rent, social care support, and then get to bills and food, it’s not enough. ”

“I’m too exhausted to do anything most days. Everything is expensive… food and energy costs are massive, for example, because I use an electric wheelchair, need another fridge for medication, and pretty much need the heat on constantly – the list goes on. I never go out anymore, but even on a good day, I haven’t the money. Everything is going up. By the time you pay rent, social care support, and then get to bills and food, it’s not enough, I’m in the red all the time and worried sick about finances every day. ”

Sara explains she gets some support for housing and Universal Credit (UC), but “Even that was a nightmare to get because of the assessment, and it took months to convince them that I was physically unable to work. ” She is in the process of trying to get a Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Still, after being refused the first time, she knows it could take six to nine months before the application goes through again and that it won’t be enough to cover costs – those on PIP face an average shortfall of £367 a year or £505 for those who face the highest living costs.

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