Cost of living concerns taking a toll on wellbeing, RNIB says

Research has found that 66% of blind and partially sighted people surveyed reported the cost-of-living crisis is having a negative effect on their mental health

A man’s legs and torso are in frame as he stands with his back to the camera in the aisle of a supermarket. In one hand he holds a shopping basket with a milk bottle, loaf of bread, and vegetables. The aisle is blurred but the bright colours of the packaging pop. 

New research has illustrated the effect of cost-of-living concerns on the wellbeing of blind and partially sighted people.

Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is calling for the UK Government to review how benefits are set and increased, highlighting that blind and partially sighted people can often experience “additional and unavoidable costs” such as for assistive technology, or taxi journeys, which could “spiral unchecked” without intervention.

Vivienne Francis, RNIB chief social change officer, said: “Our helpline is reporting a high number of calls from increasingly distressed people, weary from dealing with the every-day choices between vital items, from food to technology – and the toll the cost-of-living crisis is taking on their wellbeing.”

Research conducted on behalf of the organisation found that 66% of blind and partially sighted people surveyed felt the cost-of-living crisis had a negative effect on their mental health, while 38% reported a drop in their physical health.

The survey found 34% of respondents experienced an effect on their overall wellbeing.

Of those surveyed, more than a fifth had cut back on buying or replacing assistive technology due to the cost-of-living crisis, 35% reported spending less on food, and two-fifths were spending less on social and leisure activities.

Commenting on the numbers of calls the RNIB helpline is receiving, Francis shared: “We are doing what we can, but we do need others to play their role too. Urgent government action is needed now as we enter the harsh winter months where these issues will be exacerbated, causing extreme worry and anxiety.”

“We’re calling on the Government to urgently review how benefits are set and increased. They must always cover the essentials, and the extra costs that come with sight loss, such as increased lighting and technologies,” she continued. “We’re also calling for much needed energy support from the Government.”

RNIB’s Sight Loss Advice Service, available through 0303 123 9999, is continuing to experience a surge in calls to the helpline, the organisation reported, with a regular increase of more than 30% at peak times.

The organisation is also offering energy specific support through the British Gas Energy Trust.

Kim Jaye, 59, a visually impaired woman from Bolton, explained that she has had to cut down on activities such as attending community groups and visiting friends because of the transport costs.

Jaye said: “Being visually impaired, we’re already isolated to start off with, and we’re becoming more and more isolated because we’re unable to go out and do the things that we would normally do because all our money is going on to bills.”

She continued: “Like many people who are visually impaired, I am on benefits, I can’t work and I’ve got various health conditions. In the last 12 months, my mortgage has gone up by £500, my energy up by £100 a month, and my food bill has tripled. And yet my benefits have only gone up by £110 a month.”

“On top of having to deal with my sight loss every single day and the obstacles that you face, I am now having to face all of this, and it is so tiring,” Jaye said.

RNIB is highlighting the effects of the cost-of-living crisis on blind and partially sighted people and sharing advice on its website.