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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Disabled people struggle to afford food and heating, study says” was written by Frances Ryan, for The Guardian on Tuesday 17th April 2018 23.01 UTC

Disabled people are being forced to skip meals and sit in cold homes in a climate of benefit and social care cuts, according to new research.

Analysis by ComRes on behalf of the Leonard Cheshire Disability charity shows almost a quarter of disabled adults aged 18-65 in the UK missed at least one meal in the last year, while a fifth said they were not able to keep their home warm.

Previous studies of disabled people by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the charity Scope show a considerably higher rate of deprivation than in the general population; in 2017, less than 8% of non-disabled people were in food poverty while those without disabilities have to spend half as much on energy bills as people with health conditions.

The Leonard Cheshire research into the human cost of cuts to services and financial support for disabled people paints a bleak picture of families struggling to cope. 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 financial situation is compounded by a growing social care crisis, with more than half (55%) of disabled people of working age saying they did not receive the vital support they needed in 2017. This suggests deteriorating social care for disabled people, with comparable research released by the charity in 2016 finding 48% of respondents were without social care.

The findings follow a recent report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission that found disabled people had disproportionately borne the brunt of tax and welfare changes since 2010, with disabled families facing an annual income loss of up to £10,000.

Leonard Cheshire said their latest research shows the impact has been “catastrophic” with essential heating, food or travel often becoming unaffordable.

Neil Heslop, the 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.”

Absence of any social care, or inadequate support, also left more than half (54%) of those who 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.

A government spokesperson said: “We know that people often face additional costs as a result of their disability, which is why we’re spending more than ever before to support disabled people and those with health conditions. We introduced PIP to replace the old system, and now 29% of people receive the highest rate of support, compared to 15% under DLA.

“We expect disabled adults with care needs to receive high-quality support. We know the social care system is under pressure, which is why we provided an extra £2bn funding and a further £150m for this year. We will shortly outline plans to reform social care, ensuring it is sustainable for the future.”

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