Disabled households in the UK are being pushed into debt by spiralling living costs, research suggests.
People who are disabled and the loved ones who care for them are at “breaking point”, and Government cost-of-living support will only offer temporary relief, according to the disability charity Sense.
Censuswide carried out polling for the charity of 1,006 people with disabilities and 1,002 family members caring for a disabled person between June 1 and 8.
More than half (54%) of those polled said they are in debt, with more than a third (38%) skipping meals to save money.
Some 74% said they will be unable to cope if prices continue to rise, and 68% said the pressure is affecting their mental health.
The rising cost-of-living pressures come on top of the increased costs disabled people face in their daily lives, at the same time as being less likely to be able to work full-time or at all.
This includes specialist equipment, using more energy for charging wheelchairs or powering oxygen machines, and relying on taxis or adapted vehicles.
The charity is calling for long-term financial support for disabled people and their families, and for benefits to be increased in line with inflation.
The Government has announced a series of measures to help the most vulnerable as the cost-of-living rises.
This includes giving £150 to individuals receiving disability benefits, worth a total of £0.9 billion, to be paid by September.
Disabled people receiving benefits who are on the lowest incomes will receive an additional payment of £650.
But four out of five people surveyed for the charity said they do not believe the measures go far enough.
Nick Flaherty cares for his 13-year-old daughter Rhia, who has a life-limiting metabolic condition called PDH and is registered deaf and blind.
The family receives the same amount of support as they did when she was just three and were in debt before the recent price rises.
Mr Flaherty, from Bristol, said: “The £150 from Government is great but it’s tiny compared to the thousands of pounds in energy costs we’re facing on top of the debt we’re already in.
“I constantly worry but the worry pales into insignificance when the alternative is your child dying. You just don’t have a choice.”
Richard Kramer, Sense chief executive, said: “Everyone is affected by rising prices, but disabled households are one of the hardest hit because of their circumstance.
“Many are in poverty, less likely to be in full-time work and facing additional costs for essential goods and services, like charging the wheelchair or running the oxygen machine.
“With social care services cut, many families already struggle to get the support they need and feel there’s no way out of their financial situation.
“The costs disabled people and families face are not luxuries that can be cut, and ‘improved household budgeting’ will not solve the problem.
“Disabled people and carers need long-term financial support.”
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We know that living with a long-term illness or disability can impact on living costs, which is why financial support is available to those with disabilities or caring responsibilities and we urge people to check they are getting all the help to which they are entitled.
“Eight million low income households will get at least £1,200 of direct payments this year, with a £150 top-up payment for disabled people.
“And we are also helping more disabled jobseekers to find, retain and progress in fulfilling work, offering specialist programmes such as Access To Work, paired with personal support from our Work Coaches and Disability Employment Advisers.”