- By Erin Sharrocks
- BBC News
Most people are affected by the cost of living crisis, but for people like Alice Moore, it’s a bigger problem.
The 21-year-old Cardiff University student has cystic fibrosis, meaning she can’t easily cut back on food spending for health reasons.
She has to buy specific products that aren’t usually available at more affordable supermarkets, which is made more difficult by skyrocketing prices.
“I’m worried about the finances anyway,” she said.
“It’s frustrating that it’s not an option I can make to save everything because of my disability.
“I have to get my hands on my money [to cover it]”, she said. “It shouldn’t be, and now I have to frugal and save for other things because I need enough money to buy food.”
Disability Students UK, the largest disabled student-led organization in the country, said the lack of support for students like her was “really disappointing”.
The Welsh Government has said it is committed to supporting students with disabilities through the cost of living crisis, but the National Union of Students (NUS) Wales believes more can be done to “ensure a level playing field”. Equality”.
‘It was a big stress’
Another disabled student, Hannah Stansfield, 25, said: “I can’t eat much food because my senses are overwhelmed. I can’t just go and find a cheaper version.
“It’s a big stress right now.”
The Cardiff Metropolitan student has autism and says she often has to buy “really expensive” brands because they’re the only things she can eat.
Both students receive Individual Independent Payments (PIPs), a government benefit that helps people with disabilities cover living expenses.
The two components of PIP are everyday life and mobility. In April, the maximum daily living component increased from £92.40 to £101.75 a week, while the maximum moving component increased from £64.50 to £71.
But Amelia McLoughlan of Disability Students UK said this was “certainly” not reflective of inflation.
“It’s a £30 increase, a PIP increase as they’re calling it – it’s not a huge increase,” she said.
She said many students with disabilities aren’t able to cut spending where other students can, so the PIP “doesn’t cover the potential extra costs.” [of being disabled].”
Alice mainly spends her PIP on food, but says the rest goes to travel to hospital appointments.
“When the PIP payment was not increased to reflect inflation, I found myself using my own money to pay for everything,” she said.
Another form of financial aid available to students with disabilities is the Student Disability Allowance (DSA), which is intended to cover study-related expenses such as specialized equipment. This academic year, students can receive up to £26,291 a year for support.
But in 2022, a report by Lord Holmes of Richmond found that only 29% of students in England and Wales with known disabilities were receiving a DSA, with some students reporting the process was “time consuming” and “too bureaucratic”.
Cardiff Metropolitan student Jasmine Treharne, 20, said it takes “a minimum of six weeks” for her to get a refund on any purchase, which can be inconvenient.
Helen Saelensminde, chief executive officer of the Snowdon Trust – a charity that provides grants and scholarships to students with disabilities – agrees that there is a problem with the grant.
“For some students with disabilities, their costs exceed the limits of the DSA,” she said.
The option of supplementing loans and grants with income from part-time work is not available to many students with disabilities.
Diagnosed with dyslexia in college, Jasmine previously struggled with organization and time management. She worries that the additional responsibility may lead to her failure.
“Currently, with the help I get, I’m pretty okay with my studies, but I feel like if I got a part-time job, I wouldn’t have enough time to focus on my studies. ,” she speaks.
“It was quite a struggle. I had to ask people to borrow money and I withdrew money in my bank.”
‘Difficult to quantify’
Disability charity Scope reported earlier this year that disabled households pay an average of £1,122 more a month to have the same standard of living as households without a disability.
Ms McLoughlan said this means the cost of living crisis is having a “severe” impact on students with disabilities.
“It is difficult to quantify because different facilities will have specific problems,” she said.
She added that if nothing changes, it will be “survival of the fittest, and that’s really worrying”.
The National Union of Students (NUS) Wales said students with disabilities were among those “heaviest affected by the cruel cuts to services”.
The Welsh Government says it is investing £17.7m to enable further education providers to support students with additional learning needs.
“We are committed to supporting all students with disabilities through the cost of living crisis, so they can continue to access the education they need to develop the skills they need to reach their full potential. mine.”
The UK government has been asked for comment.