Hackney People First: counteracting the disability price tag

Hackney People First was established in 2014 to support people with learning disabilities through self-advocacy. Self-advocacy means that even though a person with a learning disability may ask for support from others, they still have the right to be in control and make their own decisions. The organisation is user-led and has grown and adapted to the needs of its beneficiaries over time. The £10,000 grant they received through our Together for London fund is currently providing practical cost-of-living support to their vulnerable members in the form of informal utilities advice and support with bills, alongside opportunities to meet friends and other members of their community.

This grant will help alleviate the financial stress and help adults-at-risk feel supported and know they are not alone, having someone they can turn to for help and support.

Adults with learning disabilities are one of the most disenfranchised groups in society, facing discrimination on many levels, from hate-crime to unequal access to services. Many are socially isolated, do not use social media and even struggle to use a mobile phone. Most importantly, they also face what disability charity, Scope, calls ‘the disability price tag’; even before the crisis, disabled people were facing extra costs of £583 a month on average, with 1 in 5 facing extra costs of over £1000 a month. 62% of people referred to a food bank in early 2020 were disabled. Paradoxically, due to the nature of their care and support needs, Hackney People First shared that their members are widely unaware of the cost-of-living crisis and why it is happening. For some, all they see is increasingly expensive energy bills and food items.

Hackney People First’s Together for London grant will provide three forms of support – firstly, utilities audits through home visits. Hackney People First will assess members’ energy bills to ensure they are on the correct tariff – advising on the benefits and discounts available to those with disabilities. But they will also go one step further, providing part-payments of bills, which will help to tangibly reduce the financial burden on the individuals they support.

The grant will also cover venue, food and travel costs for their weekly community meals – so that their beneficiaries can come together as a community, helping to reduce social isolation. Hackney People First is a user-led organisation, whose trustees all have a learning disability. This lived experience means they know their community benefits greatly from this social interaction and from having someone play a supportive role and alleviate any anxieties. This wellbeing element will remind members that they are not alone and create a sense of belonging for a community that would otherwise have limited opportunities to mix with their peers, while also allowing carers to receive some respite from their caring duties.

Finally, as we are seeing across the sector, it is not just service users who are feeling the effects of rising costs. The grant will also help Hackney People First to alleviate their organisational financial pressures by funding staff and core costs, which are currently being covered by their limited reserves. Their Together for London grant will go a long way to making the organisation more sustainable, helping them to rebuild their financial safety net so that they can continue to support learning disabled adults in Hackney through the crisis and beyond.

It is inspiring small, local community organisations like Hackney People First that the most excluded turn to for trust and support. And it is these local community organisations we, in turn, need to support to make the most difference here in London.

Show your solidarity today – find out how you can support a project like Hackney People First in your community.