Disability charity Scope sees five-fold surge in people needing help with soaring energy bills

·2-min read
Ajay Yadav, a London-based wheelchair user, at work in his IT support job  (Supplied by Scope charity)
Ajay Yadav, a London-based wheelchair user, at work in his IT support job (Supplied by Scope charity)

Disability charity Scope has seen a near-500 per cent rise in people needing help with soaring energy bills this year.

Scope referred 2,873 people this year through their Disability Energy Support (DES) service, over a six-month period. In 2021, only 493 people were referred by the charity.

Last month alone 44,000 people accessed advice and support on the cost of living through the site – a 72 per cent increase compared to the same time last year.

This year, the “Help with your energy bills” webpage has also seen a 10-fold increase in page visits, from 1,841 to 18,593, from May to July 2022.

Many disabled persons are reliant on energy as a result of their condition or a family member’s condition.

Ajay Yadav, a wheelchair user based in Stratford, said he was worried about extra costs in the coming months, for him and other vulnerable people with less support around the UK.

He said: “I have something called spinal muscular atrophy, which basically means I have a muscle wasting condition, so I have no movement and because of that I’m actually very cold in the winter.

“I use my electricity and heating much more than a non-disabled person would, simply because I have many adaptations in my house that require constant recharging or electricity on a daily basis.”

Charging Mr Yadav’s powered wheelchair, ventilator, stair lift and using heating in the winter are all part of managing his condition.

The 44-year-old IT support worker added: “I’m working from home now and if the energy costs do go up in October, it’s going to make a big dent in people’s families. Bills will be much higher.

“I do worry for those disabled and elderly people who aren’t working because people that are on benefits, how are they going to cope?

“Especially in London, the cost of living, the energy prices, food prices – everything has gone up, which is going to make it even more difficult for people with disabilities.”

Tom Marsland, policy manager at disability equality charity Scope, said: “After months of harrowing predictions about energy bills, the energy price cap announcement confirms disabled people’s fears.

“Life already costs more for disabled people. Now the cost of charging a wheelchair or using a breathing machine will have almost trebled in a year.

“We’ve been inundated with calls from disabled people who don’t know which way to turn and feel like they are being punished for using more energy.

“The government must intervene now. They should start by doubling the support package and look at bringing in discounted tariffs for disabled customers who need more energy.”