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November 22, 2022

The Impact of Cost-of-living on People With Disabilities

About 1 in 5 people come under the definition of disabled in the UK, in that they have a long-lasting condition which impacts day-to-day living. At Sheffield Hallam, our community reflects this in the student population though it is much lower in the staff population. Some staff and students may not identify as disabled. Others in our community may be carers or live with disabled people. Ultimately, we will all experience disability or the impact of disability in our lives, either through lived experience, through supporting family and friends or our students and colleagues.

The cost-of-living crisis is impacting everyone now, but it has a disproportional impact on Disabled people. A new report, Facing Barriers has found that nearly half of disabled households (48%) have struggled to keep their home warm and comfortable at some point during the year, compared to 30% of non-disabled households. More disabled households are without savings (38% vs 22%) and struggle to pay bills (30% vs 13%) are holding more credit card debt (11% vs 7%) and lifestyles have been drastically adapted, 43% have eaten lower quality food compared with 25% of non-disabled households and a greater number have had to cut back the number of meals eaten (31% vs 12%). In addition, a further social restriction has been imposed due to costs with 35% of disabled people not going out compared with 17% of households that are not disabled.

· 1 in 5 of the working-age population is classed as disabled

· More people are reporting a long-term health condition or disability than did so eight years ago

· The increasing number of people reporting a disability is being largely driven by an increase in mental health conditions

· Nearly 1 in 3 people classed as being disabled one year are no longer classed as being disabled the next

There are ‘hidden’ costs to being disabled (Smith et al, 2004). Disabled individuals and their families have additional costs incurred due to their disability, on essential goods and services, such as heating, insurance, equipment, travel, food, and therapies (SCOPE). Travel is more costly for disabled students who may need to access trains and taxis when walking or buses are not accessible.

Heating is needed to support people with certain conditions or recovering from cancer treatments. Some disabled people will need to eat convenience food rather than raw or unprepared food. This comes with additional expense, as do condition-specific specialist diets.

There is also economic exclusion as disabled students are not able to study and work, and disabled staff may need to work part-time to manage the impact of their conditions. The ability to work from home, for a greater number of roles if only on a part-term basis has brought benefits to many disabled people but more work is needed to harness the benefits of hybrid working.

What support is available?
Digital accessibility and inclusion can help. There are resources from Ability Net and Sheffield City Council and people can save up to £200 a year just by accessing more online offers.


Sheffield Hallam Staff support

The Employee Assistance Programme aims to help deal with personal and professional problems that could be affecting home life or work life, health or general well-being. The Service is provided 365 days a year, 24/7 online, by telephone at 0800 028 0199. and face-to-face. It is available to staff and their families and also offers these services

· Access to counselling

· Legal support for any issues that cause anxiety or distress which could include debt management, accountancy, lawsuits, consumer disputes, property, or neighbour legalities.

· Qualified nurses are on hand to offer practical advice on a range of medical or health-related issues.

· CBT self-help modules, informative factsheets, and invaluable advice videos from leading qualified counsellors.


Student Support

The current cost of living crisis is affecting many of our students and their families. We already have a range of support in place to help students through this and we will continue to consider ways we can target support to specific groups as the year progresses.

Financially, the Student Success Scholarship has always included a premium for students with a learning contract and we have increased the impact of this by 5% for the current academic year. We have also increased the amount that all students can receive from our Hardship Fund.

Disabled students can access study-related support through Disabled Student Support, by registering with us on My Student Record or if they need assistance can book a quick query appointment. Disability advisers can signpost to funding, such as Disabled Students Allowances (DSA) that can support students with additional study-related costs. All students and staff have access to Microsoft 365 and can use the integrated assistive tools, we also offer training resources and sessions. Our well-being offer is also available to all students.


By Marissa Hill & Matt Parkin