Rishi Sunak’s measures to help disabled people during the cost-of-living crisis are not enough and will be “quickly swallowed up”, a woman living on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) has said.
Julie Inglis, 53, from Forres in the north of Scotland, worked in an ambulance control centre but had to retire after multiple strokes.
She lives with chronic pain, and has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung condition that causes breathing difficulty.
Speaking to the PA news agency following Mr Sunak’s statement on Thursday, Ms Inglis said: “Although yesterday’s announcements were very welcome and will make a difference, I’d be lying if I said it was enough.
“I’m sure most in my position will be the same. We’ve been struggling for so long that a few hundred here or there is quickly swallowed up and just reduces the debt a little.
“I won’t feel a difference in my purse.”
Mr Sunak’s announcement included a £650 one-off payment for those on means-tested benefits and a one-off payment of £150 for those on certain disability benefits.
The typical annual household energy bill is forecast to rise by more than £800 in October, according to the industry regulator Ofgem.
Having fibromyalgia makes Ms Inglis especially sensitive to the cold and she has to run her heating for longer than normal.
“I have to put all the heating on for hours to feel any impact and it’s still not enough,” she said.
“It’s May, yet I’ve been sitting wrapped in blankets everyday cos it’s so cold. I dread to think what winter is going to be like.
“I feel really ungrateful complaining… (but) I think it’s going to be a long time before anything starts to make a difference.”
Ms Inglis said she was “out of ideas” for ways to reduce spending.
“Probably the worst thing (is) the lack of hope,” she said.
“I can’t earn my way out of it.
“I have nothing left of any value that I can sell. I’ve budgeted every single thing possible. I don’t drink or smoke… I’m out of ideas.”
Ms Inglis called on Mr Sunak, who has a net worth of £730 million according to the Sunday Times Rich List, to “spend decent time with someone who is trying to survive on benefits”.
“Although he says all the right things we know he can never know what desperation feels like… his reality is so far removed from ours,” she added.
Jason Alcock, 51, from Stoke-on-Trent, has bipolar disorder, ADHD and is autistic.
He believes he will qualify for the Government’s £150 and £650 payments and said the money is “a hell of a lot better than nothing” but added “we needed this help” sooner.
“I know people who are on disability who are basically eating every other day now,” Mr Alcock told PA.
“It will get me closer to being not in debt. It will still be hard, but if that’s the amount that’s coming through then that will help.
“I’ll only be OK because I’ve already shut down most of the house. I’m not going to be living comfortably.
“Heat affects me badly because my brain can’t turn heat off. I’m dreading the summer.”
Mr Alcock, who lives with his two dogs, said he relies on affordable electricity as technology helps him socialise, and he gave audiobook and podcast service Audible as an example of something which keeps his brain “distracted so it doesn’t go into bad directions”.
His wife died with cancer in 2018, and he has been forced to part with her possessions due to the cost of living.
“Over the last year I’ve had to sell most of my wife’s stuff to just keep going. I had to sell some of her collectibles. It shouldn’t have happened,” he said.
“I only shower once every three days, I only do a wash once a week at the most. I’ve really cut down as much as I can in little things like that.
“I even bought a little solar panel system in the backyard a while ago so that I could recharge my phone and everything via that. I will be in a very bad place if I can’t do my normal things every day.”