Disability campaigner Thomas Howard took his petition to bring back the disability cost-of-living payments – with more than 60,000 signatures – to Downing Street this month (February 2024).
The disability cost-of-living payment was dropped in November 2023 for those receiving certain disability benefits, including Personal Independence Payments (PIP). A £150 cost-of-living payment had previously been given between 20 June 2023 and 4 July 2023.
Epilepsy Action joined Thomas’ calls to reinstate the benefit. Many people with epilepsy qualified for the original cost-of-living payments because they were also receiving PIP.
Thomas travelled from his home in Suffolk to London to deliver a physical copy of the petition. He said: “It was really surreal to be honest. It’s just one of those places you always see on the television and then to actually go there was exciting and daunting at the same time.”
He added: “It was really good to feel like I’ve achieved the next step of the campaign.”
The next steps for the campaign are to see cost-of-living payments reinstated in the government’s upcoming spring budget, Thomas said.
“The budget is coming up in March. If there’s going to be any announcement on additional support for disabled people it’s going to come then not before. So, my priority is continuing to raise awareness and I’m going to be reaching out to all the signatories letting them know that the petition has been delivered, urging them to continue to support and share and asking them to share a copy with their MP.
“I think the next big step is letting the politicians know – not just the big ones, but letting more people know – that this is on the agenda, you have the power to bring this to the attention of the chancellor and hopefully get some real change.”
The cost-of-living payments for people on low incomes were also dropped this month. This means the government is now no longer giving financial cost-of-living support for anyone with disabilities or on low incomes.
Thomas said he believes the cost-of-living crisis is far from over.
He said: “Energy bills just went up this January, so for the government to portray this as: ‘The cost of living crisis is over, everything’s okay now’ is completely inaccurate. It’s a worrying time for a lot of people.
“I would urge the government to continue all financial support. The cost-of-living crisis isn’t over for a lot of people – whether it be mortgage payments, energy bills or food prices going up.”
He added: “The financial support isn’t really there and that’s why these cost-of-living payments are an essential lifeline.”
While Thomas is hopeful the government will listen to his campaign, he is covering all his bases this election year by also reaching out to Labour Party MPs.
He said: “If the petition doesn’t achieve anything then we might have a different government this year, so I have also been reaching out to members of the Labour Party just to make them aware of the petition, and to ask them: ‘If you come into government, what’s your plan?’”