More than four in five (83 per cent) of disabled people in Northern Ireland say that their financial situation has worsened since the start of the year, according to a survey conducted by the disability charity, Sense.

The survey also revealed that  one in two (55 per cent) admit to being in debt.

The charity has announced that it will provide emergency financial support to disabled households, in response to the research that shows the impact of the worsening cost-of-living crisis on disabled people.

Energy costs remain the biggest worry for disabled households, with over half (59 per cent) of all disabled people across the UK saying they are struggling to afford to keep their home warm, and one in four (29 per cent) cutting back on using essential specialist equipment, such as ventilators, nebulisers and electric hoists. More than a third (35 per cent) of disabled people said that they fear their energy supplier will try and move them to a prepayment meter, amid reports of forceable installations in the homes of vulnerable people.

Nearly half (46 per cent) of all disabled people say they are skipping meals to save money, and one in five (21 per cent) disabled people say they are regularly using food banks. Only a third (33 per cent) said they were optimistic that their financial situation would improve this year.

A thousand families from across England, Wales and Northern Ireland will receive a two-hundred-pound grant from Sense this month to help them with extra costs. It follows payments of five hundred pounds that the charity made to a thousand families last year.

Next Tuesday (7 March), ahead of the Spring Budget, disabled people and families will visit 10 Downing Street to hand-in a petition of 80 thousand signatures, calling on the Government to provide further support for disabled people during the ongoing crisis.

Six-year-old Paige (pictured), from Ballyclare in Country Antrim, Northern Ireland, has Mitochondrial disease. Because of her condition, she is often in and out of hospital – trips her dad, Mark, accompany her on, while mum, Josephine, stays at home and cares for the other children. This affects the family’s income, as Mark does not get paid for the time he’s not working.

The family have been affected hugely by the increasing costs and the pressure on them has continued to get worse. In February, the family were evicted from their home due to a rent increase they couldn’t afford. They now live in temporary accommodation. Josie said that moving and the change associated with that stressed Paige who has been having seizures almost every day since. Her mobility has also been affected.

The temporary accommodation isn’t accessible for Paige who is a wheelchair user, and so the family have to carry her up the stairs. There have also been issues with the heating and mould in the house.

Josie said: “Things are still tough for us, and we don’t know how long we’ll be in this temporary accommodation. The government needs to do more to help disabled people and their families, they don’t know what it’s like. Charities should not have to make up for what the government should be doing.”

Sense is a national disability charity that supports people living with complex disabilities, including those who are deafblind, to communicate and experience the world. Sense supports children, young people and adults in their home and in the community, in their education and transition to adulthood and through its holidays, arts, sports and wellbeing programmes. In addition to practical support to families, Sense also offers information advice, short breaks and family events, and campaigns for the rights of people with complex disabilities to take part in life.

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