Mum, 50, dreads energy bills as disabled daughter’s health is at stake

Truss set to make £100bn energy plan making party 'uncomfortable'

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Winter will be tough for tens of millions of Britons as energy costs rocket. The elderly, vulnerable and disabled will be hit hardest of all.

Many have lower household incomes because they are too old or sick to carry on working. They are also likely to face far higher energy bills because they spend more of their day at home.

Winter is going to be tough, said Lorna Fillingham, who gave up her job as a nurse in 2014 to work as an unpaid carer for daughter Emily-May, 12, who has a rare genetic condition.

Lorna, 50, gets Carer’s Allowance of just £69.70 a week, while her daughter gets Disability Living Allowance, but that hasn’t kept up with rising prices. “We’re lucky my partner works. Others have it much worse.”

She says the value of the state pension and disabled benefits such as the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), employment support allowance (ESA) and Attendance Allowance are all shrinking in real terms.

They rose just 3.1 percent in April, while the Bank of England now expects inflation to hit 13.3 percent in the autumn.

New Prime Minister Liz Truss has pledged to offer direct help with energy costs but for many suffering families this is unlikely to be enough.

Lorna says her family cannot do anything more to cut electricity consumption even after the energy cap shoots up from £1,971 to £3,549 on October 1.

Emily-May has physical and learning disabilities and uses a tablet to communicate, which they need to keep constantly charged. “Many appointments are virtual, so again, we rely on the tablet for those.”

Her condition increases washing machine usage, too. “We have to do one or two loads every day, because she suffers from reflux, and clothes and bedding often need changing.”

Millions face a choice of eating or heating, but Lorna says disabled people often face an even starker decision.

“They often need to use equipment like nebulisers, hoists, airflow mattresses, and non-invasive ventilators, all of which involve energy use. Going without could be a matter of life and death. Plus there is the cost of staying warm at home.”

Lorna’s family’s petrol costs are higher, too, as the nearest children’s hospital is in Sheffield, which entails an 80-mile round-trip.

Small, everyday activities can also end up being more expensive, Lorna adds. “Emily-May is a wheelchair user and the nearest park with equipment she can actually use is four miles away, which again means more fuel getting there and back.”

Lorna says the £150 disability payment announced in June as part of former Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s rescue package simply does not cover these extra expenses. “The cost of living crisis is harming people right now and we need to see action.”

Rocketing energy bills threaten to price people with lung conditions out of breathing, warned Sarah MacFadyen, head of policy & external affairs at Asthma + Lung UK.

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“Winter is already the deadliest season and the cost of living crisis will only make this worse and put seismic pressure on the NHS.”

Millions face a choice between eating or heating, but those with long-term illnesses have another expense to balance. “Rising costs could leave people choosing to skip their medication,” MacFadyen said.

The charity has seen a 150 per cent spike in calls to its helpline from people seeking financial and welfare benefits advice.

Struggling households are being asked to claim all the state support they can, including Pension Credit, Attendance Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and the Employment Support Allowance.

If you need help, find out more at, or your local Citizens Advice.

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