Chancellor Rishi Sunak
Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled his Spring Statement yesterday.

Mobility and access retailers and suppliers could suffer as a consequence of cash-strapped consumers after Chancellor Rishi Sunak was criticised for failing to address the impact of rising living costs for disabled and elderly people in his Spring Statement.

The chancellor announced in the House of Commons yesterday that he would cut fuel duty, raise the threshold at which people start paying National Insurance, and pledged to cut the basic rate of income tax before the next general election.

In response, the Business Disability Forum (BDF) highlighted the squeeze on the cost of living for disabled people already, including their need to spend more money on medication and adaptations – a factor which which may mean that they will now need to be more price sensitive when buying the mobility aids that they need.

Responding to the Chancellor’s Spring Statement yesterday, the BDF called for urgent Government action to address the impact of the rising cost of living on disabled people.

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Business Disability Forum’s Head of Policy, Angela Matthews, said: “We are disappointed that there was little in the Chancellor’s statement today to address the disproportionate impact of the rising cost of living on disabled people.

“Many disabled people experience higher living costs than non-disabled people simply because they have to spend more money to live near-equal lives. This has always included costs associated with medication, adaptions, and transport.

“Disabled people tell us that they are, now, also having to use their own money to get access to urgent procedures and treatments to ease pain, such as lymphatic drainage and physiotherapy.

“The rise in energy prices is also particularly affecting disabled people. People who rely on electrical provision twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for breathing equipment, for example, are being bit hit hard by rising energy costs.

“The Government has already arranged financial support for some groups, but there has been no mention of this being matched for disabled people.

“BDF welcomed the commitment the Government made in July 2021 to create an Extra Costs Taskforce to review the costs incurred by disabled people. The Government has since said that it will launch the taskforce this summer. It is hoped that the taskforce will create a long term and sustainable approach to keeping the extra costs of being disabled down. But an immediate, short-term, response is needed – now.”

According to the Centre for Ageing Better, Government action and leadership is desperately needed to support people to improve their homes and reduce their energy costs for the future. The reduction in VAT on the energy efficiency products is very welcome but the scale of the challenge needs much more.

Carole Easton, Chief Executive at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “Pensioner poverty is rising, and quickly. Having a comfortable, healthy, and financially secure later life is becoming ever more unlikely, and the freeze on the triple lock will see yet more older people facing the unenviable task of stretching their money even more thinly.

“Scrapping VAT on home energy efficiency is a welcome longer-term move, both for people struggling to heat their homes and the climate – but homeowners need easy access to advice and support to take advantage of this. Ageing Better is calling for locally delivered home improvement hubs to provide the holistic support people need to make their homes warm and safe.

“But times are tough for everyone right now, there’s no doubt about it. Older people reliant on the state pension are particularly at risk from the soaring cost of living. We need to urgently encourage and advise people to claim their pension credit where relevant.

“Looking ahead, we need to see a long-term strategy about how, as a country, we will work to reduce levels of poverty in older people including supporting people to stay in fulfilling employment for longer.”

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