Third of disabled people cut back on gas and electricity fearing costly bills

A third of disabled people have cut back on their energy consumption over the last year to afford their bills, a charity said.

A survey of working-age disabled people found 32% reduced how much energy they use and 29% have struggled to pay their bills in the last 12 months, disability charity Scope said.

In order to keep up with energy payments, 24% have turned off their heating even though the house was cold, 18% have worn a coat indoors and 15% have borrowed money.

The charity's analysis has found 554,000 disabled households spend more than £3,000 a year on energy, compared with the £1,354 spent by the average UK household.

It has called on energy companies to improve at identifying disabled people when they become customers, and work with them to manage their energy spending throughout the duration of the contract.

Scope chief executive Mark Atkinson said: "It's appalling that in 21st century Britain disabled people have been forced to cut back on heating, wear a coat indoors, skip meals or borrow money as they struggle to cope with their energy bills.

"Disabled people frequently have to use more energy because they can be less mobile, need to regulate their body temperature or have to charge specialist equipment.

"Life costs more if you are disabled. Scope research shows that these costs add up to on average £550 a month, and higher energy bills play a significant part."

Adam Lake, from the poverty charity Turn2us, said: "Our research has found that those living with a disability are more likely to cut back on heating their home because of the cost of their energy bills.

"Living in a cold home is terrible for your health, and is likely to exacerbate the health problems of someone with a disability.

"What often makes matters worse is that many of the most vulnerable are not on the lowest tariff on offer from their energy providers, and there is very low awareness of the other support available to those struggling.

"This is why it is so important that those finding it hard to cover the cost of heating their home are made aware of the support that is out there."

:: Opinium Research surveyed 501 disabled UK adults between December 20 and 28.

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