Being disabled, the cost of living and food

We’re sure you’re all concerned about the increasing cost of living and one of the areas where this is going to hit hard is around food. Eating well is so important to health and quality of life and we wanted to signpost to some of the support that’s available locally as well as talk about how disabled people are more likely to be affected.

The cost of living and disability

It’s well understood that the cost of living in general is higher for disabled people, and this was already the case before the current crisis. If we add into that, that disabled people often have increased energy bills, it’s clear to see why disabled people are going to be more at risk of food related poverty.

The Trussell Trust said that, “More than six in ten (62%) working-age people referred to food banks in early 2020 were disabled.” This means that disabled people are over represented amongst food bank users.

They also noted that “51% of households referred to food banks in early 2020 had someone with poor mental health.” This increased during the pandemic, from 51% in early 2020, to 72% midway through 2020.

Research earlier this year from Scope found that disabled people are three times as likely than non disabled people to not be able to afford food. If we look more generally, we find disabled people are more than twice as likely to have a cold house and three quarters having to cut household spending.

“Disabled adults have seen the biggest increase in household costs for their energy bills (67 per cent have seen an increase), food and non-alcoholic drinks (54 per cent have seen an increase) and petrol costs (48 per cent have seen an increase).” – Scope, 2022

Why are disabled people more impacted

As we’ve mentioned, the cost of living for disabled people is more expensive: Scope found that on average, a disabled adult faces an extra cost of £583 per month, with one in five disabled adults facing extra costs of over £1000 a month.

These costs aren’t offset by benefits such as Personal Independent Payment (PIP), and many people who need support, don’t get it. The benefits system can feel unhelpful and disempowering and fear of the process can put people off trying. The criteria set for PIP is intense and leaves many disabled people not eligible for the support they need to cover the additional costs of being disabled.

Despite what many people think, equipment such as wheelchairs is often not provided by the NHS or local council and home adaptations are also not always covered, depending upon your housing situation. There is also insurance that is needed when it comes to things like powerchairs as breaking down as being either stranded somewhere or left unable to afford repairs would leave a person in a terrible situation.

There may be additional energy use, such as needing to wash clothes and bedding more frequently, or needing to maintain a warm house to manage a health condition or because you are more sedentary and are unable to move around to warm yourself up as easily. Charging things such as powerchairs and feed machines all takes up additional energy and that leads to an increased energy bill. Inaccessible transport systems can mean disabled people reliant upon private vehicles and the associated fuel, or taxis.

And having an impairment can become a full time job in itself; including employing carers, managing appointments, battling to get into venues that really should be accessible…. This can leave little time and energy for paid work. And sudden and unexpected life challenges can compound all of this, especially if you’ve not been in a position to save up for emergencies.

Overall, this means that around half of the 14 million people in poverty in the UK are living in families with a disabled person (Scope).

Ok, so onto food…

If you’re not disabled, you may not see the need for certain products, the ready peeled orange that did the rounds on social media springs to mind. So many people reacted with confusion, explaining that it already had packaging (the peel) which is fine but only if you can actually peel an orange.

Some disabled people have specific dietary needs or limitations such as not being able to lift a pan, or open a tin. These restrictions in turn affect how easy it is to cook. If you can’t prepare a meal, you may be looking at ready meals, which often don’t accommodate dietary restrictions and may be more expensive. We might also be more limited in which supermarkets and shops we can get to – being told to shop around for deals isn’t as easy if you have chronic pain or limited care support.

Something that we’ve not touched on much is the increased cost of food. An article in the Grocer (2022), highlighted which of the food groups have seen the higher price raises:

“Oils and fats saw the largest rise of 15.9%. Fruit is now 6.9% higher; vegetables 4.5% higher; milk, cheese and eggs 5.7% higher; and meat 3.9% higher.”

So what help or support is there?

Nationally, Scope has a list of places where you can get help with food, including places where you don’t need a referral. They also suggest a couple of food sharing apps which aim to reduce food waste.

If you have children and are eligible for free school meals, make sure you’ve applied and if you have a child under 4, you might be eligible for Healthy Start vouchers.

And of course, foodbanks. We know some people are concerned that a food bank won’t be able to meet their dietary requirements but if you let them know, they may be able to swap items depending on what they have available.

Foodbanks in York

Information correct as of October 2022, to the best of our knowledge.

The council have a list of community food banks and we’re also aware of the Refill Community Fridge in Bishophill. If you know of any others, please let us know in the comments. York CVS have also compiled a map of food banks that includes cafes where you can pay what you’re able to.

York Foodbank have centres across the city and are all wheelchair accessible. Note, you will need a voucher and different centres are open on different days so please do check with them first.

  • Gateway Centre, Acomb
  • Vineyard Church, Fishergate
  • Living Word Church, Huntington Road
  • Clifton Moor Community Church
  • Cornerstone, Tang Hall
  • Citadel, Gillygate

Citizen’s Advice can help you get a food bank voucher, as can some organisations such as charities, schools and children’s centre.

And if you’re able to help out food banks, you can make financial donations, donate food or volunteer your time.

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