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RNIB responds to UK Government’s mini-budget and energy price guarantee

The UK Government’s mini-budget and energy price guarantee do not go far enough to support blind and partially sighted people through the cost of living crisis.

The Chancellor’s mini-budget does little for the majority of blind and partially sighted people. Last week’s statement failed to deliver much needed targeted support for people hardest hit by the cost of living crisis .

Prime Minister Liz Truss recently announced that energy bills for typical households in Britain would be capped at £2,500 a year from October for the next two years. In Northern Ireland, where the structure of the electricity and gas supply markets is different, households will get the same amount of support.

David Clarke, RNIB Chief Operating Officer said :

“The energy price guarantee, while welcome, fixes prices at a rate already too high for many blind and partially sighted people. What we urgently need, but what was glaringly missing from the Chancellor’s statement, was targeted support for those who face higher energy costs, including blind and partially sighted people. The UK Government must urgently rethink and provide more support to people with sight loss before we face a catastrophic winter.

“The Chancellor said that he wanted people to keep more of their earnings. We urge him to raise the Blind Person’s Allowance so people with severe vision impairment earn more before paying Income Tax. We are also calling for this allowance to be extended to those certified with sight impairment.”

Hundreds of blind and partially sighted people are talking about the extreme worry and anxiety the crisis is causing them.

One of RNIB’s service-users told us: “My house in winter I can only usually heat to 13 degrees. My fingers are so cold I cannot read braille, or feel the tactile markings on bank notes.”

Another explained: “I am partially sighted. Turning off my lights puts me in danger of tripping. The rise in energy and food costs leaves me and my two children with the difficult decision whether to turn lights off or eat.”

“I have sight loss and work from home,” . “I need additional light, electronic equipment and accessible technology to help with my work and my day-to-day activities. I am struggling to afford this as the bills are so high.”

Blind and partially sighted people already face additional, unavoidable costs and are twice as likely to live in a home that has a total income of £1,500 a month or less. Even with the energy price guarantee, many people with sight loss will still be spending an unstainable amount of income on energy. To make matters worse, many people with sight loss are set to lose their Warm Home Discount. Budgets that were already stretched will have to go even further this Winter.

It is vital the UK Government delivers more targeted support to people with sight loss to deal with rising costs alongside reversing changes to the Warm Homes Discount scheme, so the energy support is available to everyone on disability benefits. This must include urgently increasing benefits in line with inflation.