“It’s oppression upon oppression, upon oppression, and no one is trying to deal with it,” says Shani Dhanda, a disability specialist and businesswoman.
Dhanda has osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), an inherited genetic bone disorder that is present at birth, also known as brittle bone disease.. She is one of millions of disabled people across the UK who have to make life-changing decisions to overcome cost of alive crisis.
“Disabled people have not received adequate support for years and now face life and death situations,” she says.
Almost half of the UK population living in poverty are disabled themselves or living with a disabled person, and these households are already double the odds be struggling with the cost of living compared to people without disabilities. This is expected to get worse in the coming months, as research by disability equality charity Scope found that 91% of disabled respondents are worried about how they will pay their energy bills, and another 45% say they don’t plan to use heat at all this year.
As prices continue to rise, disadvantaged communities no longer have to choose between heating up and eating. They just don’t pick any.
“As disabled people, we have been living in a cost of living crisis for years with these added costs, as well as the years of austerity that we have faced under the Conservatives,” says Dhanda. gal-dem.
Since the Conservatives came to power in 2010, austerity, cutbacks and benefit reform have pushed more than a million disabled people into poverty, according to the labor party.
Although there is very limited data on the impact that the cost of living crisis is having specifically on disabled people of color, it is clear that they will bear the brunt of the emergency. Blacks and ethnic minorities are struggling financially with disproportionately high costs of living and are 2.2 times more likely live in extreme poverty than their white counterparts, and Bangladeshis are three times more likely, according to the Runnymede Trust, a think tank on racial equality. The research also found that while white families receive an average of £454 less a year in cash benefits than a decade ago, this rises to £806 less a year for black and minority ethnic families, and up to £1,040 less. for black and minority families. ethnic women.
“People with disabilities now face life or death situations in the cost of living crisis”
Shivani* has just spent the last four months on sick leave and now has to miss essential hospital appointments because she can no longer afford to attend them.
“I was born with a health condition that affected my entire life. I’ve had more surgeries and fractures than I can count. I’ve had chronic pain for 15 years and have been walking on crutches since I was 10 years old,” says Shivani, who has type III OI in addition to chronic pain. In winter, Shivani’s body becomes even more tense and his pain increases due to the cold temperatures. Now he has to think twice before turning on the heat.
To manage her condition, Shivani has to have regular sessions with an osteopath to maintain her mobility and make sure her muscles don’t get too tight and sore. However, shortly after returning to work, Shivani experienced severe pain in her neck and required two emergency appointments with osteopathy.
“That’s already £130 that I didn’t take into account this month,” she says. “Because of my condition, I don’t trust many people to touch my body, and my osteopath is one of the few people who can really help me and not hurt me. But their prices are going up, so I’ve already had to reduce the number of sessions I have. These sessions help build my muscle strength, but I can no longer afford to have them regularly.”
If she doesn’t have these regular sessions, Shivani risks further tightening her muscles and worsening her pain, which is already starting to have a “domino effect” on her body.
“All the progress I’ve made in my sessions has been undone because I haven’t been able to keep up. So now my health is suffering, but I have no choice. It is very expensive. I am planning to prioritize the things that I need to do in terms of health care and I am cutting all my personal care expenses.”
“Disadvantaged communities no longer choose between getting warm and eating. They don’t pick any.”
Katouche Goll, a 25-year-old beauty content creator and disability activist with cerebral palsy, is also worried about the impact rising costs will have on her social life.
“The biggest draw for my finances comes from mobility. I have to take taxis to work and meet my friends, and if I want to go out and have a social life, like anyone else in my demographic would, it costs money, but it costs me more money as a disabled person. person because public transportation is very limiting and inaccessible,” she says. gal dem.
“When my body gets tired and I’m in a lot of pain, I can’t risk making it worse, so I have no choice but to take taxis. The consequences of this inaccessibility and the increase in costs will affect people with disabilities socially, because if you do not have the economic resources to travel, they hold you back. And when disabled people are prevented from having a social life, it can have a very negative impact on our lives.”
“I don’t think it’s fair that we as disabled people have to pay more to live the same life as everyone else,” adds Dhanda.
As a disabled woman of color, Shivani says it’s hard for her to know where some of the problems she faces are coming from. “In terms of salary levels, we know that white men are generally paid more than women, particularly women of color,” she explains. “But are the issues I face because I have a disability, or because I am a woman, or because I am a person of color?”
People with disabilities are already almost twice as likely to be unemployed compared to people without disabilities in the UK. For those who are employed, a study of people like us earlier this year it found that people of color could be paid up to 16% less than their white peers, so it’s not just disability that’s having an impact on people’s finances.
“We are faced with such a wide disability pay gap that we effectively work two months a year for free; the gap is greater if you are a woman and a person of color,” explains Dhanda. “And I check all those boxes. Disabled people of color need help beyond the token payment of £150 PIP (Personal Independence Payment).”
Until six million disabled people who are applying for disability benefits, including PIP (benefits for people with long-term physical or mental health or disabilities), have received or expect to receive a one-time cost-of-living payment of £150 from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP ), but people with disabilities say this won’t help them cover their costs.
“This amount of money doesn’t even scratch the surface,” says Dhanda. “There are 14.6 million disabled people in the UK, and not all disabled people receive benefits, so using the benefits system to support disabled people is flawed. But for disabled people who are out of work, these welfare payments are their only income, and despite this, the government still refuses to increase benefits in line with inflation.”
Until sufficient and proportionate help is provided, Dhanda is concerned about how the crisis will continue to affect the lives of disabled people. “We are facing a humanitarian crisis that is avoidable if the government provides urgent and targeted support.”
*Names have been changed to protect anonymity