Today’s blog has been written by Eugene Grant who works for disability charity Scope.
“We are struggling financially and finding it very hard to cope. I am at my wits end [trying] to find a way out of the debts.” This quote from a disabled mother of a disabled child will resonate with many people all over Britain right now. Recent estimates show that some 10 million people find it a constant struggle to manage their debts; last year, over one and a half million people sought help from debt advice services.
For many disabled people, their financial situation has been made worse by problems with their benefits or social care packages – the result of bad decisions made by Government or their local authority. Currently, around 39% of disabled people who challenge the outcome of a Work Capability Assessment – the test to determine eligibility for disability out-of-work benefits – have the original decision overturned in their favour. With cash-strapped councils tightening eligibility for social care packages, lots of disabled people are at risk of losing out on vital financial support.
Times are hard for everyone, but disabled people are in a particularly unstable position. They are much more likely to live in poverty, be unemployed and have lower wages than non-disabled people. These problems are made worse by the fact that many disabled people then have to spend more of their income covering the extra costs that arise from the barriers in our society – barriers like unsuitable housing or inaccessible transport.
Wrong decisions by benefits and social care assessors, lower incomes, extra costs – all these factors can add up. As a result, many disabled people struggle to cope with debt. About one in five of the people who approach Citizens Advice Bureau to get help with their debts are disabled. A survey conducted by Scope and the independent think tank Demos found that 38% of households with a disabled member reported they were in debt – not including their mortgage.
Debt is a vicious, cycle; it can feel like there’s no end in sight. Some disabled people who are unable to work cannot access low interest rates on credit cards. Often, banks won’t lend to people on benefits – even though this is often a consistent, stable source of income for disabled people who will face barriers throughout their lives. For many families who are living day-to-day, with little or no financial stability, sometimes all it takes is an unforeseen event – an emergency like a boiler breaking down in the middle of winter – to push them over the edge financially.
The most important thing to remember is this: if you are in debt and struggling to cope, you are not alone. Even more important is the fact that there is help out there; debt advice has been proven to have a positive effect on people’s financial situation.
If you’ve had a change to your social care plan and are now not getting enough money to pay for the help you need, charities like Scope have information to help; if you’re looking for advice with challenging a decision about your benefits, then there are plenty of places like Citizens Advice Bureau that can support you. If you’re struggling to cope with debt or cover extra disability costs, it is always worth seeking out help, early on, from a free debt advice service – like this one – and not suffering in silence.