One of the principles of a human rights-based approach is we all should live a life of dignity – including access to warm, dry housing; the right to work; the opportunity to attain nutritious food and access to healthcare and social security. This poses the question: how can we lead in supporting people in society through this cost-of-living crisis?
The rising cost of living is a destructive storm causing ripples across every aspect of our society. It’s affecting everyone, but its effects are overwhelming for those in our society who were already struggling to pay their bills. The World Bank said “it’s too expensive for governments to help everyone with their soaring energy bills”. So how do we make support more targeted at those most in need?
Disabled people face additional barriers to achieve and sustain employment, with those who do often employed in low skilled jobs, with a resulting lower wage. This disparity of wealth is exaggerated further as it is estimated that disabled people face around £600 per month in additional life costs, including essential and often lifesaving medical equipment, making them particularly exposed to the cost of living crisis. We are hearing that half a million people in the UK are unable to access the job market due to symptoms of Long Covid. At the Alliance and across our sector we know immediate and targeted action is needed with absolute urgency.
The cost of living crisis is driving people into poverty like never before. At a recent event in partnership with Disability Equality Scotland during Challenge Poverty Week, we heard first-hand accounts of how this crisis is affecting disabled people, people living with long-term conditions and unpaid carers. They spoke of huge concerns for how they are going to be able to afford the basic necessities for their health and care needs, for example the energy required to power and charge essential assistive technologies. People shared that they are cutting back on food, lighting and showers. It’s an area for serious concern for the Alliance and our members.
For many, adequate financial provision to cover their energy bills is a preventative measure, ensuring people are supported to live well in their own homes, reducing hospital admissions and in turn putting less pressure on public spending. Targeted emergency social security payments could be an essential public health intervention. In the longer term action is also needed to rebalance how we approach the economy, whilst upholding human rights is essential to address the root causes of this crisis.
In our recent report ’Disabled People, Unpaid Carers and the Cost of Living Crisis: Impacts, Responses and Long Term Solutions’, we call on UK and Scottish Governments to offer emergency social security payments to address the cost of living crisis, as part of a suite of recommendations for immediate action and longer-term solutions. The Alliance propose an emergency cash payment to two eligible groups: those receiving a disability payment, and anyone receiving either Winter Heating Payment or Carer’s Allowance. This, we believe, will help mitigate some of the immediate effects of this national crisis.
The UK and Scottish Governments must take action to address the crisis for disabled people, people living with long-term conditions and unpaid carers.
Let’s uphold our human rights in Scotland.
Sara Redmond, Chief Officer, Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland