Headlines: October 20th, 2004

People with disabilities who rely on benefits for their sole income face a weekly deficit of 200 pounds between what they receive and the minimum sum required for an acceptable quality of life. Research today from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation also shows the picture is almost as bleak for those disabled people working for the national minimum wage.Today’s study calculates the costs of essential items, including personal assistance, that people with different levels of disability would need to enable them lead lives on level terms with non-disabled people. The examples of ‘budget standards’ were drawn up by disabled people living in Birmingham, Derby and Nottingham working with researchers from the Centre for Research in Social Policy and supported by Disability Alliance.

The research finds disabled people experience extra costs in most areas of everyday life, ranging from major expenditure on essential equipment to routine extra costs for food, clothing, fuel, transport and leisure activities. According to the standards a disabled person with high to medium mobility and personal support needs 533 pounds a week for an acceptable quality of life. The equivalent figure for a deaf person or someone who is visually impaired is put at 376 pounds a week. The figure falls to 364 pounds for someone with fluctuating needs and to 345 pounds for someone whose disability means they have low to medium needs.

While in general the people with the greatest needs face the biggest bills there are exceptions. Transport costs, for example, are highest for those with fluctuating needs, and communication and leisure costs are highest for deaf people. Personal assistance costs vary from 44 pounds a week for people with low to medium needs up almost a thousand pounds a week for those with medium to high to needs. The figures include the cost of interpreters for deaf people and trainers for visually impaired people, as well as personal and home care services.

The research looks at the budget standards in comparison to the maximum amounts of benefit that non-working disabled people can hope to receive from Disability Living Allowance, Income Support and Incapacity Benefit as well as taking Housing and Council Tax benefits into account. That gives a picture of unmet costs ranging from 200 a week to 230 a week for disabled people with medium to high needs. For a disabled person working 20 hours a week on the minimum wage, and claiming in-work benefits, the gap between income and costs is between 118 and 189 pounds a week depending on needs.

“Disabled people’s costs of living: More than you would think,” has been produced by Noel Smith, Sue Middleton, Kate Ashton-Brooks, Lynne Cox and Barbara Dobson, with Lorna Reith, It is published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.