Disabled families in Rugby forced to use ‘warm spaces’ this winter in desperate bid to save on energy bills
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Disabled families in Rugby are turning to warm spaces this winter in a desperate bid to save on energy bills.
They are turning to drastic measures like turning off the heating to cope with financial pressures, as disability charity Sense urgently calls for a social tariff on energy to help people through the cold months.
Nurse Laura Smith, who lives in Rugby and has MS, said her family is not managing.
The mum spends a lot of time in hospital, which limits how many hours she can work and therefore how much money she can earn.
Laura, who has two teenage children with autism, said: “I’m trying not to panic, but we are not managing. I don’t know how this is going to resolve itself.”
She said she needs to have the heating on because of her condition.
"If I get too cold I can get ill,” added Laura.
"My symptoms get so bad that I can’t move and am at much higher risk of falling. But even given how important it is, we’re still having to be more frugal. We put the heating on at a different temperature now and will put blankets on instead.”
As the cost-of-living crisis has worsened, the family have struggled with bills and are dipping more and more into their overdraft. The family are saving money where they can, including Laura and husband Neil regularly having soup for meals because it’s less expensive.
Disabled people, who often earn less and face higher living costs, have been disproportionately impacted by the current crisis and are continuing to face extreme hardship. They have to pay more for specialist diets and therapies, and then use more energy to run essential equipment, such as breathing machines and feeding pumps.
Heating is especially important for those who are less mobile and struggle to regulate their own body temperature.
Now facing a second winter with very limited support, disabled people’s biggest concern is energy bills and the impact of having the heating on.
Richard Kramer, Chief Executive of Sense, said: “We are in the middle of the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades, and disabled people are being hit the hardest.
Energy bills are so high that people are being forced to switch off their heating to save money, or even leave their homes to find a warm space in the community – it’s a desperate situation.
“The government cannot sit back and watch for a second winter, as more disabled people are forced into debt and ill-health. We are urging the government to recognise the full impact of rising costs on disabled people and bring in a social energy tariff which would help millions struggling across the country.”