A new Epilepsy Action survey reports that 58% of people with epilepsy are worried about being able to afford bills, including the cost of running of important medical equipment such as seizure alarms and monitors.
The survey, launched at the beginning of August, shows the impact that the cost-of-living crisis is already having on people with epilepsy. The results show that rising costs are already forcing people to take drastic action in order to be able to cover bills. This includes skipping meals or not heating their home.
The cost-of-living crisis is a collective problem many in the country are currently experiencing, but for people with epilepsy, the crisis is also worsening their health condition. 67% of people said they are experiencing more stress due to the rising cost of living and, more worryingly, 2 in 5 said they’ve had more seizures as a result.
Indeed, it is known that an unbalanced lifestyle may trigger more seizures. Half of people with epilepsy said they have lost sleep because of stress or worry about the cost of living, while 43% are concerned their epilepsy will get worse in the coming months.
On 23 September, the Government announced a new plan for the UK economy. This plan includes new reforms to Universal Credit conditionality. This means that the 120,000 people claiming Universal Credit will be forced to work more hours if they don’t want their payments reduced. This will have tremendous consequences for people with disabilities in the UK, as they will now have to face what many charities have described as a “punitive winter”.
More than 23% of people with epilepsy claim Universal Credit. 68% of them are already dealing with more stress caused by the cost-of-living crisis and 71% are experiencing more seizures as a result. Given that more than half of these people were already worried about their uncertain economic situation, the new government’s plan risks seriously affecting their mental and physical wellbeing.
Creating different incentives to guarantee better-paid jobs, as the new government wants to do, can be a great support for those working part-time. However, cutting fundamental resources for people with disabilities who struggle to work is a failure of the system that needs reviewing before the beginning of winter.
Epilepsy Action is pushing to guarantee that the difficulties faced by people with epilepsy can be addressed as soon as possible.
In a recent survey launched by the Neurological Alliance, nearly half of people with epilepsy said they were forced to leave employment as a result of their symptoms, addressing levels of discrimination in the workplace that were higher for those with this condition than for those without.
When considering that only 42% of people with epilepsy of working age are employed (among the lowest employment rates for disabled people in the UK) it is essential that the findings from the new survey are addressed urgently.
Daniel Jennings, senior policy and campaigns officer at Epilepsy Action, said: “It’s really worrying to hear that people with epilepsy are already facing extra seizures as a result of stress and running out of road to be able to afford essentials many take for granted. Uncontrolled seizures can be dangerous and ultimately fatal. People with epilepsy living in more deprived areas are at higher risk of death than people in wealthier areas, with the life expectancy of people around eight years less than the average. The impact of health inequalities on people with epilepsy is stark, and sadly the divide is growing even greater.”
The data collected by the survey has informed Epilepsy Action’s demands to the Prime Minister, the Department of Health and Social Care, and the Department of Work and Pensions.
These include increasing disability benefits to match the rate of inflation, while also offering more employment support to help people with epilepsy get and stay in jobs. Moreover, Epilepsy Action is also advocating for better access to the Warm Home Discount Scheme, which currently excludes around 210,000 people on disability benefits from applying, and for social tariffs for disabled people, so that they pay no more than a supplier’s cheapest plan.