Human cost of social care crisis revealed

18 April 2018

  • disabled people missing meals and not heating homes
  • inadequate support leading to isolation  

Almost a quarter of disabled adults aged 18-65 in the UK said they missed a meal (23%) while a fifth said they were not able to keep their home warm (20%) in the last year because they couldn’t afford it, research commissioned by charity Leonard Cheshire has found. 

The shocking findings follow a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission that highlighted disabled people had disproportionately borne the brunt of austerity tax and welfare cuts since 2010. 

Drops of up to £10,000 in annual income for disabled families have often been catastrophic with essential heating, food or travel becoming unaffordable.

Leonard Cheshire’s nationally representative survey, of more than 1,600 working aged disabled adults (18-65) in the UK — paints a bleak picture of individuals and families struggling to cope on the bare minimum. 

More than one in four (27%) working age disabled adults reported having less than £50 to spend each week after deducting income tax, council tax and housing costs. The impact of this is compounded with higher living costs experienced by disabled people often being hundreds of pounds extra per month.

Lack of social care further deepens the financial difficulties faced by disabled people, severely limiting their ability to work, access education or other opportunities such as volunteering, says Leonard Cheshire.  

The 2017 findings show a deteriorating trend from directly comparable GB-wide research undertaken by the charity in 2016. Over half (55%) of disabled people of working age say they did not receive the vital support they needed in 2017 compared to 48% in 2016.

Absence of any social care, or inadequate support, also left more than half (54%) of those that need it feeling isolated and lonely, according to the latest research. Meanwhile 53% said the lack of help had a negative impact on their mental health.

Neil Heslop, CEO of Leonard Cheshire, said:

‘Our research lays bare the appalling situation many disabled individuals and families find themselves in.

‘Every day, thousands of people are teetering on the financial brink, unsupported and isolated. 

‘When high quality social care is provided it has the power to transform lives.  It can empower disabled people to live, learn and work as they choose.

‘We must all do everything possible to support people in their journeys to independence and dignity in communities across the UK.

‘Too often disabled people are being held back by a broken social care system.  We urgently need a funding solution that is directly developed with disabled people — to ensure it meets the challenges they face, and that their needs are no longer ignored.’

Read our full report — Essential but unaffordable: Poverty, social care and disability (PDF).

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About the research

ComRes surveyed 1,609 disabled adults in the UK aged 18-65 between 15 June and 10 July 2017. Data were weighted by age, gender and region to be nationally representative of disabled adults of working age in the UK. 

In 2016, ComRes surveyed 1,032 disabled adults in Great Britain aged 18-65 between 28 April and 10 May 2016. Data were weighted by gender and region to be representative of disabled adults of working age in GB.

Data collected by British disabled adults in 2017 were also weighted to the 2016 age distribution in order to be able to make direct comparisons to 2016.

Full datasets are on the ComRes website here:

UK disabled adults survey, social care section

UK disabled adults survey, income and disability related costs section

Examples of extra costs

On average, disabled people face extra costs of £570 a month related to their impairment or condition. This is on top of welfare payments designed to help meet these costs

One in five disabled people face extra costs of more than £1,000 a month. 

Source: Scope, ‘The Disability Price Tag’ 2018