Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Disabled people in Wales struggling to pay bills, study says

From BBC News:

Disabled households in Wales are suffering serious financial hardship due to rising accommodation, transport and household costs, a report says.

A Muscular Dystrophy Campaign survey of 650 homes affected by muscle disease found 60% were struggling to pay bills.

The charity is calling on councils to consider the effect that their financial decisions might have on families affected by disability.

It said supporting their independence made long term financial sense.

The report said many households affected by disability were finding it hard to meet heating, gas and water bills and are facing fuel poverty this winter.

Families were also draining their savings to pay for accessible accommodation or adaptations to their homes.

And the current benefits system was not covering the additional cost of living for three-in-five households affected by disability in Wales.

The charity said muscle disease patients often experienced high fuel bills caused by vital extra heating, the charging of equipment like electric wheelchairs and ventilation machines to help them breathe.

While all Britons over 60 automatically receive a Winter Fuel payment of up to £400, severely disabled people and those with serious health conditions receive no help with fuel unless temperatures plunge below freezing for seven days, it said.

Other financial burdens arise as progressive diseases worsen over time and families are forced to adapt their homes.

The maximum £30,000 adaptation grant that can be applied for from local councils frequently does not meet the total cost of the work needed, said the charity.

This often leaves families forced to take out loans or re-mortgage their properties to cover the rest, it said.

Others are forced to rent private adapted accommodation at unaffordable prices.

Robert Meadowcroft, Muscular Dystrophy Campaign's acting chief executive, said: "The 'Disability Premium' has seen families living with muscle disease under extra pressure.

"We firmly believe that supporting patients, their carers and families in coping with the everyday cost of living with disability helps to households to maintain independence in the long run.

"The right support can keep young people with disabilities working, carers caring, families in affordable housing and older people independent and in their own homes."