How churches can help people with disability survive the cost of living crisis

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The cost of living crisis is impacting many us. Those already struggling with food shopping are finding that cheaper budget foods are rising in price much more quickly than luxury food items.

Foods that are necessary because of dietary intolerances are also increasing in price. For example, lactose free milk is up by an average of 30 pence a litre, and up by 50 pence in some well known large grocery stores. When you need 1 to 2 litres per day, this can mount up. These sort of foods are not a luxury item, they are vital.

For many, this cost of living crisis is exponentially higher and for reasons beyond their control.

It's well known that for disabled people, it costs a great deal more to live day-to-day than it does for a non disabled person. Scope's 'disability price tag' report said that, on average, disabled people face extra costs of £583 a month. This report was done in 2019. The figure rose during the pandemic and is now even higher due to the cost of living crisis.

In the Guardian, Dr Fancis Ryan wrote that disabled people are now facing "impossible choices to survive" in this crisis, citing many stories where people are having to choose between using and charging up vital medical equipment such as ventilators and oxygen machines, or whether to do the washing or eat.

In a tweet the next day, she told us, "A whopping 59 charities have written to MPs calling for them to cancel April's real-terms benefits cut, and to increase rates by at least 7% to help rising energy and food costs." (The 'real-terms benefit cut means benefits will rise by just 3.1% in April, when inflation is forecast to hit 7%.)

Money saving expert Martin Lewis tweeted about his phone-in slot on Good Morning and said: "So many people at crisis point regarding energy bills - including those with very high usage due to disabilities (home ventilators, oxygen concentrators, electric wheel chairs etc). I am nearly OUT OF TOOLS to help..."

In the thread that followed, there were disabled people saying they had switched their heating off and were now in severe cold induced pain and just didn't know what to do.

The icing on the cake for many is the news, reported in many places, that more than 200,000 benefit claimants may be barred from the £150 warm home discount scheme that helps people heat their homes in the winter.

These changes will affect people claiming Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payments (PIP) or Attendance Allowance (AA).

I have seen more and more newspapers and news channels reporting that many disabled people will be turning to food banks to survive. The truth is, this has been happing for years due to the always present cost of living gap for disabled people. It's just that this crisis will make it worse and only now people are noticing.

Please, if you can, support your food banks. Ask if they need any specialist foods to be donated in addition to the usual donations.

Write to your MPs about this - no disabled person should be in pain because they are too cold. Neither should someone have to choose between ventilating their child or eating.

If as a church you can afford to, think about using your existing connections to offer charging facilities for those who are struggling in this way. Families who have children with serious and complex illnesses need a fully charged phone and fully charged equipment. The same goes for adults with complex disabilities.

And a hot drink or meal while they are waiting would be a God send.

Kay Morgan-Gurr is Co-Founder of the Additional Needs Alliance, part of the Evangelical Alliance Council. She is a visually impaired wheelchair user and blogs at Follow her on Twitter @kaymorgan_gurr