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Chronic ill-health or disability are problems for many of our local clients

By Anna Tickle, Research & Campaigns Volunteer

Chronic ill-health or disability affect as many as half of Citizens Advice Epsom & Ewell clients in an average year. About 1 in 5 working age adults in the UK have a disability of some kind.

Such disturbing statistics represent disadvantage and unhappiness for human beings and a big problem for the economy.

Having a long-term illness, disability or impairment that limits daily activities can often result in difficult to manage extra costs. In 2022 the charity Scope estimated that disabled people faced extra costs averaging £583 a month; for 1 in 5 it was over £1,000 a month.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a non-means-tested benefit for people with long-term physical or mental conditions that affect everyday life. It’s awarded on top of other benefits regardless of income, savings and whether they are working.

Epsom & Ewell

Our clients raise PIP more frequently than any other benefit. They ask for help with a wide range of issues including:

  • Making and managing a claim
  • Eligibility
  • Change in circumstances
  • Challenging a decision
  • Appeals
  • Medical Evidence
  • Renewals and reviews.

Making and managing a claim is the most common issue and growing. In the year to September there were notably more questions (chart). The benefit system is often complex and confusing so this isn’t surprising.

PIP Claims
Significantly more calls for help with health and disability claims in 2022-23.

But the increase in the number of clients seeking help PIP claims is a clear indication of greater numbers struggling with financial problems and/or facing a new physical or mental health condition. And Epsom & Ewell is no outlier on this health-economic issue.

Economic impact

The proportion of the UK population reporting a disability has risen over the last decade and the economic impact is significant. This is because people with disabilities face extra costs in everyday life, are less likely to be employed and are typically paid less.

These economic challenges underline the importance of PIP and other disability-related financial support. Paul Johnson, Director of the respected Institute of Fiscal studies said recently:

‘The further down the social hierarchy you go, the more likely you are to be ill, to be disabled, to be in pain, to suffer mental health problems and hence be economically inactive as well. The causes are complex, but the sheer numbers affected, the misery created and the economic cost surely mean that tackling them should be near the top of any list of social and economic priorities’*

We agree. As things stand the combination of low incomes and extra costs leaves people with disabilities particularly vulnerable to rising prices. In the middle of a cost-of-living crisis with winter approaching, they need a stronger financial safety net for their own and the economy’s sake.  

* Disability, illness and pain are real problems for the entire economy Paul Johnson, The Times, 28/08/23

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