If you would like to talk to someone about epilepsy, our trained advisers are here to help.
As the cost-of-living crisis begins to affect millions of people in the UK, it’s important to remember that many people with disabilities are particularly vulnerable. People with epilepsy face one of the lowest rates of employment among disabled people in the UK, with only 42% of them employed. This leaves many people with epilepsy reliant on benefit payments, and struggling to keep up with the cost of living.
- Universal Credit: people with low income or people unable to work due to their health condition may be eligible for Universal Credit. This also applies to students in full-time education.
- Pension Credit: people who are over the State Pension age with a low income may be eligible for Pension Credit. Accessing Pension Credit gives people the opportunity to claim other support such as:
- Housing Benefit
- Council Tax discount
- Free TV licence (for people over 75)
- Support for Mortgage Interest
- Help with NHS dental treatments
- Glasses and transport costs for hospital appointments
- Warm Home Discount Scheme
- Help to Save: people receiving Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit or Universal Credit may be eligible. Help to Save provides the opportunity to get a bonus of 50p for every £1 saved over 4 years. This may be helpful for those who have been able to save money in past years.
Local authority funding
- Home Care: people with less than £23,250 in savings may be eligible for local authority funding towards homecare. Local authorities must financially assist disabled people for any expense related to their disability and some housing costs. On top of that, local authorities must also support disabled people with the Minimum Income Guarantee, a source of income for basic needs such as food, bills, and insurance.
- Local welfare assistance scheme (may also be called Household support fund in local area): the amount of available support varies around the country as it is the local authority that decides how to spend it
Help with Energy Bills
- Energy bill discount: the government has promised a £400 discount per household on energy bills. There is no need to apply as the discount will be automatically added to your account by your supplier. If you are on fixed bills or unsure how it works, you can contact the helpline of your supplier.
- Cost of Living Payment: households who are currently receiving benefits such as Universal Credit, Pension Credit and Tax Credits will get £650 this year, split into two payments. This comes as an addition to the Energy bill discount.
- Disability Cost of Living Payment: from 20 September, people who are on disability benefits should be receiving £150 as an addition to the £650 Cost of Living Payment.
- Pensioner Cost of Living Payment: pensioners who are entitled for the Winter Fuel Payment for 2022 and 2023 may get up to £600 depending on the circumstances.
- Winter Fuel Support Scheme (Wales only): people living in Wales who claim benefits may be eligible for the one-off £200 cash payment from their local authority.
- Tax-free childcare: families may be eligible for up to £500 every 3 months for each child.
- Child Benefit: families with children under 16, or under 20 if they are still in education or training, may be eligible for Child Benefit. Child Benefit is calculated weekly and it varies based on the number of children.
- Claim back childcare costs: families who are eligible for Universal Credit may claim back up to 85% of childcare costs.
- Free school meals: parents on benefits such as Universal Credit may claim free school meals for their children.
- Household Support Fund: vulnerable people such as pensioners and families with children may be eligible for help to cover their essential daily costs if they are struggling financially. This support is managed by local councils and therefore may vary depending on where you live.
- Budgeting Loans: people on Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, and/or Pension Credit for the past 6 months may be eligible for Budgeting Loans. The lowest amount you can borrow is £100 and you may get up to £812 depending on your circumstances.
- Discretionary Housing Payment: people on Universal Credit may be eligible for DHP. The latter can help you with rent shortfall, rent deposits and rent in advance if you are moving house.
- Transport costs
What you can do:
- Make sure your house is as energy efficient as possible: if your house is not well insulated, heat may disperse outside and cold may enter inside. If you can afford it, changing your windows if they condense or they are not properly insulated can make a difference. You could try draught-proofing strips and draught excluders around doors, sealing gaps around windows frames, and fitting covers to letterboxes and keyholes. Organisations such as the Energy Saving Trust help with practical advice on how to heat your home, save water and purchase energy-efficient products.
- Check heaters and meters: it is important to understand if your heaters and meters are properly functioning as their correct performance may help you save a lot of money.
- Make a complaint to your energy company: it is possible to make a complaint to your energy company if you feel you are being charged with an incorrect bill, the bill is late, or if you are experiencing problems after switching suppliers or tariffs.
- Contact their customer service (you can find their number or their email on their website)
- If you are not happy with the help from the customer service, try to escalate your complaint within the company
- If your complaint hasn’t been resolved after 8 weeks (6 if you are an SSE customer), or you are not satisfied with the action taken by your energy supplier, you can contact the Energy Ombudsman. They can look into your complaint and may require the company to compensate you or fix your issue. You can contact the Ombudsman online or by phone: 0330 4401624
- Ask for Disability Energy Support: if you live in England or Wales, and you have a disability or live in a household with one or more disabled people, Scope offers you free energy and water advice to help manage your needs. Their advisers can help you with a variety of topics, such as managing your energy and water debt and being more energy efficient. You will receive advice by email or through a telephone appointment.
- Use less electricity and gas: small tricks and improvements in your everyday life can reduce the usage of electricity and gas in your household. For instance:
- Try not using the tumble dryer
- Run your washing machine only when it is full and at 30 degrees
- Switch to LED or other energy-efficient light bulbs
- Close the curtains in the evening to keep the heat inside
- Make sure your fridge is set between 3 and 5 degrees and defrost the freezer regularly
- Turn off plug sockets on the wall when you are not using them
- Use your heating controls (such as thermostats and times) to heat your home without wasting energy
- Keep the room you use the most at 21 degrees during the day while you are at home and heat your bedroom at 18 degrees before you go to bed
- Manage your debt: if you are struggling with debts, it’s very important that you don’t ignore them:
- Make a list of all your debts and your creditors
- Work out your income and expenses – that is, how much money you have coming in and how much you spend. This way, you can check if you can save some money by cutting some of your expenses
- Check which debts have a priority – although you should not ignore any of your creditors, some debts are more important than others based on the consequences you can face if you don’t pay them. For instance, mortgage arrears are a priority debt because you could lose your home. Non-priority debts can be credit card debts, bank overdrafts, catalogue debts and store cards
- Be aware when borrowing money – we understand sometimes borrowing money seems the only available option, but often loans that are easy to get may be very expensive to repay.
Contact has created a list of frequently asked questions regarding debt and borrowing you can check. If you are a parent of a child with disability, you can contact their freephone helpline for details of national and local debt services.
- Look after your health and wellbeing: although this winter will likely be a challenge for many, it is important that you look after yourself and take care of your wellbeing. Regardless of your financial situation, such uncertain times can have an impact on your mental and physical health. Epilepsy Action has a helpline if you feel the need to talk to someone about how the cost-of-living crisis if affecting you. If you believe your condition may get worse as a result of the crisis, please speak to your doctor.
We are working to make sure the government understands the seriousness of the situation for people with epilepsy, and are encouraging them to offer more resources and support. You can find out more about our campaign here