Disabled people ‘at particular risk of fuel poverty’

Leonard Cheshire Disability has warned that disabled people are at particular risk of fuel poverty and face worse health as a result.

A report by the charity, Fuel Poverty and Disability, recommends a raft of measures, including extending winter fuel payments to disabled people of working age, to form part of an overall government strategy to tackle disability poverty.

Without this, government pledges to eradicate fuel poverty in the UK by 2018 will not be met, the charity says.

Government figures published last year showed 2.75 million households that lived in fuel poverty were classed as “vulnerable”. These included an older person, a child or a disabled person.

Higher cost of living

Disabled people spend a greater proportion of their income on fuel than those who are not, the report shows.

They spend more time in the home because they are less likely to be employed – a Leonard Cheshire study last year found they were twice likely to live in poverty – and find “many parts of society” inaccessible. They also face additional costs of services, such as social care or mobility aids.

The impact of fuel poverty is particularly acute for disabled people, according to Fuel Poverty and Disability. Cold environments could aggravate impairments, exacerbate respiratory problems and increase stress.

Winter fuel payments

Recommendations include increased benefits such as extending winter fuel payments, which are only available to over-60s, and increasing the threshold for the Warm Front scheme, which offers financial support for insulation and heating improvements.

The report, which calls for a large-scale survey into disabled people’s expenditure on fuel, also criticises the definition of fuel poverty.

The term applies to households which spend more than 10% of their income on fuel in order to heat the home adequately. But the additional costs of disability are “not factored into calculations of income”.

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