Disability campaigners are calling on the government to give families with disabled children a winter fuel allowance, after a survey revealed that two-thirds struggle to pay high bills.
The survey, carried out by the charity Contact a Family, found that 10% of families have had their gas or electricity supply cut off over winter because they are unable to pay their bills.
However, almost two-thirds of families said their bills were higher because they used more central heating in the winter as their child’s condition worsened in cold temperatures.
The charity is urging the government to provide these families with the fuel allowance which it currently gives to pensioners. This is in the form of an annual tax-free payment.
Although energy suppliers are not allowed to disconnect disabled households, many install meters if customers struggle to pay bills, said the industry regulator Ofgem. This set-up leaves families without energy as soon as the money dries up.
Jill Harrison, Contact a Family’s external affairs director, said: “Research shows that UK families of disabled children are among the poorest. The cold weather inevitably leads to bigger heating bills for any family. But for those whose child’s condition is affected by the cold, the costs are even higher.”
One mother in the survey, Asher Nardone, whose son Callum is profoundly disabled, said: “Because we already incur so many additional expenses in caring for him that you don’t incur with a healthy child, we are often skimping on basics to afford the heating bills. This compounds an already difficult situation.”
Contact a Family