Disabled people in the UK are much more likely to struggle to heat their homes and cut back on food this winter, according to a report highlighting “massive” income gaps amid the cost of living squeeze.
Research from the Resolution Foundation found people with disabilities had an available amount to spend that was about 44% lower than that of other working-age adults, exposing them hugely to the rising cost of essentials.
The thinktank said there was a chasm between the underlying disposable incomes of people with a disability (£19,397 a year) and the non-disabled population (£27,792), according to analysis of official figures and a YouGov survey of just under 8,000 working-age adults, more than 2,000 of whom reported a long-term illness or disability.
Highlighting the risks to households struggling with the highest rates of inflation since the early 1980s, it said almost half (48%) of disabled adults said they had to cut back on energy use this winter, compared with almost one-third of people without a disability.
Up to two-fifths of people with a disability (41%) said they could not afford to keep their homes warm, compared with 23% of the non-disabled population.
People with a disability are far more likely to be poorer than the rest of the population, with up to a third of adults in the lowest-income households having a disability, compared with fewer than a tenth of those in the richest homes.
The Resolution Foundation said the income gaps were only partly explained by lower employment rates among disabled workers. Even after accounting for employment status, more than half of the original income gap remains, showing that in-work disabled people face an increased risk of being on lower incomes than their peers.
The figures come after the government set out plans for making cost of living support payments from April for millions of households on means-tested benefits.
About 8 million people will receive £900 in three instalments: £301 made in the spring; a £300 second cost-of-living payment in the autumn; and a third cost-of-living payment of £299 made in spring next year.
There will be a further £300 payment for pensioners in winter 2023/24 and more than 6 million disabled people will receive a separate £150 payment as part of the plan.
However, the Resolution Foundation said further support measures would be needed to help disabled people, given the additional financial pressures faced amid the cost of living crisis.
Charlie McCurdy, an economist at the Resolution Foundation, said that while fast-rising prices for essentials were affecting people across the UK, people with disabilities were more exposed to the most severe effects.
“This means people with a disability – who account for a third of the poorest households in Britain – will require additional protection during the cost of living crisis, which the government has acknowledged through their cost of living payments,” he said.
“But more policy work will be needed, not just through this crisis, but to make more progress on closing the huge income gaps that already existed between disabled people and the rest of the population.”
A spokesperson for the government said it was committed to protecting the most vulnerable and that it recognised disabled people face additional costs. In addition to one-off cost of living payments, disability benefits would increase in-line with inflation from April, they added.
“We have a range of initiatives to help disabled people start, stay and succeed in work, including tailored work coach support, to help boost incomes further.”