Businesses need to start paying more attention to how they provide for disabled consumers – because they’re worth £212 billion.

The Extra Costs Commission today publishes its final recommendations from its year-long inquiry into the extra costs disabled people face. Its Chair, businessman and Family Fund trustee Robin Hindle Fisher, urges disabled consumers to recognise their spending power and “come together as a collective consumer group” to make sure they get the best deals from businesses.

To support this aim, Family Fund, in conjunction with its trading subsidiary, Family Fund Trading, is going to explore how it can build partnerships with other disability organisations to extend negotiated rates on essential products to disabled people, such as specialised equipment, to help drive down extra costs.

The Commission was launched in response to research by Scope, which revealed that disabled people pay a financial penalty on everyday living costs – on average £550 per month. This compares with average extra costs payments (Disability Living Allowance and its successor Personal Independence Payment) for disabled people of around £360 per month.

In a survey of over 2,500 disabled people and their families (including over 600 Family Fund families who have one or more child with a disability) and 85 businesses, the Commission found that:

  • Three quarters (75%) of disabled people and their families have left a shop or business because of poor customer service and a lack of disability awareness
  • Disabled customers buying power is worth £212 billion – yet it is often overlooked by business
  • Six in ten businesses surveyed said that they would benefit from better information about disabled people’s consumer habits and preferences
  • Disabled people rate friendly and helpful staff (71%) and good accessibility (55%) as most important factors when shopping.

The Extra Costs Commission will unveil its final recommendations today, at an event attended by business leaders and disability and consumer organisations, which focus on:

  • Supporting disabled people to be ‘bold and loud’ and build consumer power
  • Calling on disability organisations to improve information and services to disabled people and businesses to allow them to drive down the extra costs of disability
  • Encouraging businesses to improve the customer experience of disabled people and recognise the power of the purple pound
  • Highlighting that regulators and government should intervene when features of markets result in unfair extra costs for disabled people

The report also highlighted the digital divide for disabled people, with 27% having never used the internet, compared to 11% of non-disabled people. This can severely disadvantage them as consumers, with better deals and a wider range increasingly found only online. Family Fund helps address this gap by providing over 13,000 grants for computers and tablets last year to support families to be more digitally connected.

Family Fund Chief Executive Cheryl Ward said:

“Last year, we made over 69,000 grants to families raising disabled children to help them buy items they simply couldn’t afford. This report gives a very clear picture of the action that needs to be taken to give disabled people a fair deal.”

“For our families, many of whom live near or below the poverty line, the extra costs faced mean that sacrifices have to be made to afford not just everyday items, but specialist equipment that their children need. It is appalling that 94% of our families tell us that specialist or adaptive equipment is too expensive for them to meet the cost – and 63% of them said there was little choice even when they could afford it.”

“As part of the report’s recommendations we are we are keen to build on, and extend, the work we already do with suppliers to achieve better value in our grant making, and I’m determined that we can help get better prices on essential equipment for families.”

Extra Costs Commission chair and Family Fund trustee Robin Hindle Fisher said:

“It is very clear that life costs more if you are disabled. The Extra Costs Commission has focused on finding market-based initiatives that can alleviate the impact that extra costs have on the lives of disabled people.

“Maintaining the value of benefits is absolutely critical, but the Commission believes better functioning markets and increased competition can also play a part in improving services and driving down costs.

Read the full report.