Post from Minesh Patel, Policy and Research Assistant at Scope.
The Commission on Extra Costs is a year-long inquiry that will explore the extra costs faced by disabled people and families with disabled children in England and Wales.
In September, the Commission agreed to focus on the themes of empowering disabled people as consumers, efficient supply and effective market intervention in its approach to driving down extra costs. At the same time they also held an evidence-gathering roundtable that included spokespeople from consumer champions like RICA and experts in getting markets to work for disabled people, including Motability.
Chaired by Robin Hindle Fisher, yesterday Commissioners started narrowing down the areas that they would look at in more detail, and gave thought to the main areas of extra costs that the Commission should look at. In addition, the group began to consider what the solutions might look like in addressing these costs.
- One of the categories discussed was clothing and bedding, where disabled people may face extra costs through purchasing specialist items, as well as through having to purchase a greater quantity of non-specialist items due to overuse or damage.
- Energy was another area, which featured regularly in the personal stories of extra costs submitted to the Commission.
- Other areas included specialist disability products for which disabled people are charged a premium, e.g. powered wheelchairs, and insurance, where a significant minority pay over the odds or are unable to access products that meet their needs.
The solutions will vary according to the area of extra costs, but the discussion touched upon ideas such as:
- Promoting the significant size of the disabled consumer base as a way to encourage more competitors to enter and thus open up the disability market.
- Collective purchasing initiatives for things such as energy to enable disabled people to obtain a lower price.
- The role of digital inclusion and web accessibility to ensure that disabled people can access the best deals that are often online.
The Commission will continue to develop and flesh out recommendations for driving down extra costs. To support this process, a second evidence-gathering roundtable will be held in January that will look at what can be done to increase the availability of and reduce the cost of goods and services in key markets for disabled people.