Time to give disabled consumers a fair deal, says new report

Businesses need to start paying more attention to how they provide for disabled consumers – because they’re worth £212 billion.

The Extra Costs Commission today publishes its final recommendations from its year-long inquiry into the extra costs disabled people face. Its Chair, businessman and Family Fund trustee Robin Hindle Fisher, urges disabled consumers to recognise their spending power and “come together as a collective consumer group” to make sure they get the best deals from businesses.

To support this aim, Family Fund, in conjunction with its trading subsidiary, Family Fund Trading, is going to explore how it can build a partnership with other disability organisations to extend negotiated rates on essential products to disabled people, such as specialised equipment, to help drive down extra costs.

The Commission was launched in response to research by Scope, which revealed that disabled people pay a financial penalty on everyday living costs – on average £550 per month. This compares with average extra costs payments (Disability Living Allowance and its successor Personal Independence Payment) for disabled people of around £360 per month.

In a survey of over 2,500 disabled people and their families (including over 600 Family Fund families who have one or more child with a disability) and 85 businesses, the Commission found that:

  • Three quarters (75%) of disabled people and their families have left a shop or business because of poor customer service and a lack of disability awareness
  • Disabled customers buying power is worth £212 billion – yet it is often overlooked by business
  • Six in ten businesses surveyed said that they would benefit from better information about disabled people’s consumer habits and preferences
  • Disabled people rate friendly and helpful staff (71%) and good accessibility (55%) as most important factors when shopping.

The Commission’s inquiry is based on evidence that less competitive markets push up costs for disabled people, who incur the cost of multiple trips or searches to find the product they need, find they have reduced choice or have to buy something slightly different or more expensive, or they simply pay over the odds.

The Extra Costs Commission will unveil its final recommendations today, at an event attended by business leaders and disability and consumer organisations, which focus on:

  • Supporting disabled people to be ‘bold and loud’ and build consumer power
  • Calling on disability organisations to improve information and services to disabled people and businesses to allow them to drive down the extra costs of disability
  • Encouraging businesses to improve the customer experience of disabled people and recognise the power of the purple pound
  • Highlighting that regulators and government should intervene when features of markets result in unfair extra costs for disabled people

The report also highlighted the digital divide for disabled people, with 27% having never used the internet, compared to 11% of non-disabled people. This can severely disadvantage them as consumers, with better deals and a wider range increasingly found only online. Family Fund helps address this gap by providing over 13,000 grants for computers and tablets last year to support families to be more digitally connected.

Family Fund Chief Executive Cheryl Ward said:

“Last year, we made over 69,000 grants to families raising disabled children to help them buy items they simply couldn’t afford. This report gives a very clear picture of the action that needs to be taken to give disabled people a fair deal.”

“For our families, many of whom live near or below the poverty line, the extra costs faced mean that sacrifices have to be made to afford not just everyday items, but specialist equipment that their children need. It is appalling that 94% of our families tell us that specialist or adaptive equipment is too expensive for them to meet the cost – and 63% of them said there was little choice even when they could afford it.”

“As part of the report’s recommendations we are we are keen to build on, and extend, the work we already do with suppliers to achieve better value in our grant making, and I’m determined that we can help get better prices on essential equipment for families.”

Extra Costs Commission chair and Family Fund trustee Robin Hindle Fisher said:

“It is very clear that life costs more if you are disabled. The Extra Costs Commission has focused on finding market-based initiatives that can alleviate the impact that extra costs have on the lives of disabled people.

“Maintaining the value of benefits is absolutely critical, but the Commission believes better functioning markets and increased competition can also play a part in improving services and driving down costs.

The Commission will meet again in summer 2016 to analyse the success of its recommendations.

The full report is available to download from: http://www.scope.org.uk/get-involved/campaigns/extra-costs-commission

Case Study: Lesley lives in South Wales with her husband and two-year-old daughter, who has cerebral palsy.

When my daughter’s new specially-adapted buggy arrived, I assumed it would have a shade and rain cover included, but no – and the cheapest I could find was £200. A rain cover for a non-adapted buggy is less than £20! It is an extra cost we hadn’t budgeted for.

We also have extra petrol costs getting to appointments – physiotherapy twice a week, orthotics every six weeks, paediatrician every three months, splint clinic every three months.

We are paying for adaptations to the house to make it wheelchair-friendly – £600 so far, and more to go. We paid £3,500 for a larger car too so we can fit all the extra equipment we need.

We are responsible for maintenance of her lift and shower room, which means taking out insurance – another cost.

Notes for editors

  1. The Extra Costs Commission final report launches at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, London on 23rd June 2015.
  2. The Family Fund is the country’s largest grant-giving charity and has over forty years of helping families with disabled children. It helps ease the additional pressures faced by low-income families raising a disabled child by giving them grants for a wide range of goods and services, including washing machines, dryers, fridges, clothing, bedding, sensory toys, computers, much- needed family breaks and more. Across the UK last year, the Fund supported 69,464 families with £32.4 million in grants.
  3. Family Fund works hard to ensure that all funding received reaches as many families as possible across the UK. Last year, more than 94 pence in every £1 received went to a family in grants and services.
  4. All press enquiries, contact Jim Paterson on 01904 571 094/07825 699192 or email comms@familyfund.org.uk.

Jim Paterson, Communications Manager
Family Fund, 4 Alpha Court, Monks Cross Drive, Huntington, York, YO32 9WN

Tel: 01904 571094 email: comms@familyfund.org.uk

The Family Fund is the country’s largest grant-giving charity and has over forty years of helping families with disabled children. It helps ease the additional pressures faced by low-income families raising a disabled child by giving them grants for a wide range of goods and services, including washing machines, dryers, fridges, clothing, bedding, sensory toys, computers, much- needed family breaks and more. Across the UK last year, the Fund supported 69,464 families with £32.4 million in grants.

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About Us

The Family Fund is one of the UK’s largest grant-giving charities which, for forty years, have helped families raising disabled or seriously ill children or young people. It helps ease the additional pressures faced by low-income families raising a disabled child by giving them grants for a wide range of goods and services, including washing machines, dryers, fridges, clothing, bedding, sensory toys, computers, much-needed family breaks and more, but also give grants for items to aide a better night’s sleep such as beds, bedding, sleep monitors and blackout blinds. Across the UK last year, the Fund supported 64,020 families with £33 million in funding, 5,000 more than the previous year. Family Fund receives grants from private donors as well as each of the four UK governments.

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