Today (October 19) sees the launch of a new report by the Extra Costs Commission looking at progress made to reduce additional costs for disabled people.
Scope research demonstrates that on average, disabled people spend £550 a month on costs associated with their disability. These costs include things like expensive items of equipment such as powered wheelchairs or screen readers, paying more for energy bills, or facing higher insurance premiums.
Whilst Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment play an important role in helping disabled people meet some of these costs, this report makes it clear that more work is needed to tackle the financial penalty of disability.
Extra Costs Commission
Addressing the problem of extra costs was the focus of a year-long inquiry from July 2014 to June 2015, the Extra Costs Commission, which identified ways in which government, businesses, disability organisations and disabled people can drive down these costs.
Earlier this year, the Commission reconvened to review the progress made in delivering the recommendations it outlined.
Disabled people demanding more as consumers
The Commission identified that households with a disabled person spend £212 billion a year, the so-called ‘purple pound’. As such, disabled people and their families have the potential to be a powerful consumer base and influence how businesses serve them.
One example of this happening involves Rita Kutt, whose four-year-old grandson Caleb has cerebral palsy. Struggling to find popper vests to fit Caleb, she contacted Marks and Spencer to see whether they could stock these in larger sizes.
This led to Marks and Spencer developing a specialist clothing range for disabled children, which includes popper vests and sleepsuits. These are significantly cheaper than similar items sold by specialist retailers, making a huge difference to families with disabled children who face additional costs.
Disability organisations empowering disabled people as consumers
A number of disability organisations have been supporting disabled people and businesses with driving down disability-related costs.
We’ve created a ‘money hub’ with information to help disabled people manage their money more effectively, whilst Nimbus Disability has started to offer discounts to users of its Access Card. Whilst these are both fairly new, disabled people have so far responded positively to both of these initiatives.
Businesses serving disabled people better
Alongside the example of Marks and Spencer mentioned above, Uber has been thinking about how it can meet the needs of disabled people better.
They have developed a new service called UberASSIST for passengers requiring additional assistance whilst travelling. Uber has also introduced wheelchair accessible vehicles to its fleet in London. They plan to grow these services to enable more disabled people across the UK to access them.
There are a number of taxi and private hire vehicle providers that serve disabled people well, and it’s good to see Uber creating even more choice in the market for disabled passengers.
Much more needs to happen to reduce extra costs for disabled people, so it is important that the momentum generated by the Commission is not lost.
As such, the Commission calls upon different groups to build upon progress so far to tackle disability-related costs. For instance, disabled people should continue to raise the profile of the ‘purple pound’, whilst company boards of businesses should act as champions for disabled consumers. A cross-governmental approach is also needed to help drive down the range of additional costs faced by disabled people.
Now that the Commission has ended, Scope will be taking forward the work of this inquiry, with a focus on addressing the extra costs of energy and insurance for disabled people.
For further information, please speak to Minesh Patel, Senior Policy Adviser at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 020 7619 7375.