Spotlight on Poverty: Adult Social Care and Adults with Disabilities
Adult Social Care and Adults with Disabilities
In 2020, it was found that four million people with disabilities in the UK are living in poverty. The increasing cost of living along with changes to welfare benefits for more than a decade has led to the safety net to collapse and slowly disappear.
The role of social workers
Social workers are well placed to witness how low incomes and limited social security impact the wellbeing and lives of disabled people. Social workers need to take a rights-based approach to their practice, but poverty restricts human rights.
Social workers should be alert to the signs of poverty and ask questions as a part of interaction with people, such as whether they are using foodbanks or if they are making any changes to their care because of a low income. They should also record how poverty is impacting on people in assessments, support plans, carry out risk assessments, escalate issues to managers and senior managers. There could be a impact on decision-making if people are hungry or cold, and all practical steps should be taken to ensure individuals are supported.
There has been research into the experiences of disabled adults, which found that:
- On average, a disabled persons extra costs are equivalent to almost half of their income
- Disabled people’s money doesn’t tend to go as far. On average, £100 for a non-disabled adult is equivalent to just £68 for a disabled person
- 22% of older people are already reducing or stop spending on medication or specialist foods, or expect to do so in the coming months
- 15% are skipping meals or expect to do so over the same period
- Many people who use medical equipment at home are unable afford the cost of running the equipment, which is posing a risk to their health.
From the frontline
We did a call for evidence from our members to illustrate how poverty and financial hardship is affecting people. We received a number of responses, including the story below:
"The first time I visited Meredith*, her son, who is still at primary school, asked whether he would be getting a puppet that he wanted for his birthday. Meredith later confided to me that he would not be getting his puppet; the money she had saved for it had had to be used to keep the heating on over the weekend.
"Sadly, birthday presents turned out not to be the only purchases that the family were having to forego. Meredith has a disability, which means that she is at home throughout the day and needs to keep the heating on to protect her health. However, her disability also means that, to take her sons to essential medical appointments, she has to use taxis. She was left with an impossible choice: should she forego heating, or fail to take her children to hospital appointments?"
*Meredith is not her real name
If you would like to contribute an example of how you have seen poverty impact the people you work with, please email Kerri.Prince@basw.co.uk
From a Person with Lived Experience
“For people like me who have support needs there is a real dilemma about energy costs and the negative impact this is having on the relationship between me as a person needing support and my personal assistants. An example of this is if a personal assistant is cold do I have to put my heating on? Another example is using the oven, I might choose to use the air fryer which is cheaper, but my personal assistant wants to cook their food in the oven, what do I do? These are decisions I am having to think about and make every day.”
Calling for change
BASW UK regularly supports campaigns about the inadequacy of benefits, most recently about the uprating of benefits in line with inflation. We are pleased that the UK Government has confirmed that this will happen after some doubt, but there is still more to do.
We have launched a campaign calling for the UK Government to:
- Extend the debt breathing space scheme
- Scrap the two-child cap on benefits
- Freeze evictions during the cost-of-living crisis
We have used information published by Disability Rights UK, Scope, and AGE UK with citations listed in the Spotlight: Adult Social Care and Adults with Disabilities factsheet.