Easing the Financial Burden of Disability



Having a disability can significantly affect your quality of life, and the burden of disability is compounded if you have money problems. Unfortunately in the UK, disability and poverty go hand-in-hand all too often. Even if you don’t technically live in poverty, your disability may hamper your efforts to maintain a good standard of living.

These problems are being tackled by policymakers and advocacy groups with an eye towards future solutions, but in the meantime there may be some things you can do to improve your financial situation and perhaps make your life a little easier.

Understanding the scope of the problem

According to research published in August 2016 by the New Policy Institute, nearly half – 48 percent – of people in the UK who live in poverty are either disabled or live in a household with a disabled person. The report found that there are nearly four million disabled people living in poverty in our country whilst a further 2.7 million non-disabled folks in poverty reside with someone who has a disability. As well, at least one in five disabled people are unable to afford multiple basics such as heating their home or paying their normal household bills.

“These findings confirm that disabled people must be at the centre of attempts to reduce poverty in the UK,” said Adam Tinson, senior researcher at the New Policy Institute. He noted that in addition to the problem of households in poverty, disabled people face a range of other disadvantages in the labour market and in general participation in life.

The New Policy Institute Report was far from the first to sound the alarm about the plight of the disabled in Britain. In a May 2016 opinion piece on the Newsweek.com site, disability advocate John McArdle, co-founder of the Black Triangle campaign group, said point-blank that half a decade of austerity cuts and reform to the country’s welfare state have left hundreds of thousands of disabled people poorer and sicker. “Disability rights have never been under such a sustained, prolonged attack in Britain since the very foundation of the welfare state in 1945,” he wrote. Mr. McArdle says his campaign group isn’t putting much faith in the British government and that it is largely up to the disabled themselves to fight for justice and human rights.

Earlier in 2016 Lydia Smith, senior feature writer for the International Business Times UK, had much the same message: that the independence and lives of the disabled are being sacrificed for austerity. Recent cuts in the Budget have included not only significant cuts in weekly benefits to the disabled but also the possible removal of the Personal Independence Payment.
Needless to say, charities for the disabled, such as Disability Rights UK, are not happy about this.

Working towards a solution

The New Policy Institute’s Adam Tinson said, “If the Government is serious about improving people’s life chances, it must tackle poverty for disabled people, and it must do it in conjunction with disabled people themselves.”

Indeed, the government does have numerous benefit programmes, which despite their shortcomings can still be helpful. The government web site (www.gov.uk) has a portal page called “Financial help if you’re disabled”, which contains explanations of the available benefit schemes, as well as links to pages of advice on housing, employment, vehicles and transport, discounts and many other pertinent topics for people with disabilities.

And numerous non-governmental organisations are working on behalf of the disabled as well. The web site for the aforementioned Disability Rights UK (disabilityrightsuk.org) is a clearinghouse for information benefiting the disabled and those who care for them. It is a powerful vehicle for advocacy, working towards a “a society where everyone can participate equally.” Of particular interest for those on benefits is a timetable of forthcoming benefits changes.

If you haven’t done so already, it could be well worth your time to check out these resources and make sure you are taking advantage of the benefits that may be available to you.

When you need a short-term financial fix

Even with income (if applicable) and a full complement of benefits, living with a disability can be costly and you may at some point have an emergency expense and no way to pay for it. A personal loan is always a possibility of course, but if you have a low income, debt problems or a less than perfect credit rating, your choices may seem very limited. That doesn’t mean they are nonexistent, though.

If you need a relatively small amount of money, such as a few hundred dollars – and you can pay it back within a few weeks – a short-term product such as a payday loan may be a good fit for you. These loans have high interest rates, but their advantages lie in simplicity and convenience. Most payday lenders do not require a credit check, complicated paperwork or long wait times for approval.

Just make sure that you read and understand all of the terms of the loan before applying, so as to avoid being surprised by “hidden” fees or bad customer service. We have a page where you can compare rates and terms and read candid reviews by customers who have actually used these lenders.

Also make every effort to pay the loan back on time. Rolling it over for an additional month or more will only make it more expensive, and you could get into a rut from which it will be difficult to emerge. On the other hand, timely repayment will keep the cost of the loan to a minimum and can have the added bonus of boosting your credit rating.

If you are disabled and you have financial problems, it may seem that all of the odds are stacked against you. But it’s important to remember that you’re not alone: there are many individuals and organisations working to help improve the quality of life for people with disabilities. Don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance if you need it, and don’t be afraid to become a vocal advocate yourself. As a society we have a long way to go in matters of accessibility, but we’ll get there if we all do our part.

Paul graduated in 2001 with a degree in Finance. Since then he has gone on to work for several of the UK's most well-known financial institutions.

An avid blogger and a huge football fan, Paul is here to guide you through the ins and outs of personal finance and perhaps save you some money in the process!

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