The 'Special Needs Price Tag'

10/08/2016 15:53

Scope's work with the Extra Costs Commission highlights a total bug bear of mine - being disabled costs money. Those that know me know my hatred for what I, and many others, refer to as the "special needs price tag".

I've mentioned it previously as it was part of the reason for my campaigning for supermarkets to sell/ manufacture bigger nappies for disabled children. But it's not just special needs nappies that are over-priced. It's pretty much everything labelled under disability. If you're disabled or you have a loved one who is disabled, you'll know what I mean.

The special needs price tag affects us in lots of ways and it's a barrier that is difficult to overcome. High-cost specialist equipment, adaptations and insurance are things that a lot of the disabled community continuously face. Unfortunately we don't all have money trees growing in our gardens or Nick Knowles knocking at our door (wouldn't that be nice though?). No, these extra costs are an added bonus to a life already challenged by disability.

For a start, we need accessibility. Everywhere. I'm talking in our homes, schools, hospitals and whilst out and about. Yet a lot of businesses claim that they can't help the disabled community by becoming more accessible for us because of cost factors. They'll always throw in that they adhere to the Equality Act (2010) of course!

Excluding the general lack of public understanding and awareness of what it takes to achieve access for all, the cost of making these changes and providing specialist equipment is of course massive and a barrier to us achieving this. This is evident to us personally when we are looking to make adaptations to our homes or purchase things like specialist wheelchairs or car seats. Suppliers charge too much and it is affecting us in every way possible.

I could give endless examples of the special needs price tag. I'm currently looking to buy my four-year-old son, Brody, a new car seat. The one I think we need looks exactly the same as his current seat. It's the same brand too. The only difference is the 5-point harness tolerates a higher weight. Yet it's £600 - nearly seven times the price of his current seat. I need this seat for my son's safety, not to mention it's a legal requirement. But someone somewhere has decided to take advantage of that.


Brody's specialist shoes cost in excess of £120 (excluding VAT). I am extremely grateful that the NHS pays for him to have a pair, but the price is ridiculous. And it of course costs them a lot of money. The special needs price tag takes money out of our NHS. At that price it's not like I can buy him spare pairs. His shoes cost more than my entire shoe collection!

I see people posting in special needs equipment pages a lot about specialist beds, that have high sides and padding. Their children need these beds, again for safety reasons. Yet they're £6000 upwards.

Brody has night seizures and there are anti-suffocation pillows available...for around £60!

Then there are toys and play equipment. Sensory toys that are over-priced, that half the time you can find cheaper in discount stores. Brilliant, but extortionate trikes that a lot of people can't afford without charity funding. There was a toy that Brody used to like playing with in hospital play rooms which has a laughable price tag. It's essentially a carousel of mirrored keyrings with bells on the end that fans out when you spin it. It's nearly £60.

Basically, we're all being taken advantage of. There are over 12 million disabled people in the UK, with a spending power of £212bn a year. How can these prices be justified? Where is the equality? Why aren't we all shouting about this injustice?

I agree with Scope so much, in that we have to shout and make our voices be heard. Be bold and be loud! We need to work together to get better value for money. And as a collective force, who knows? We may achieve this! We can't sit back and be taken advantage of.

We need businesses to listen and the government and regulators to stop businesses making things that are overpriced for disabled people.

One business that has listened is Marks and Spencer, who are a great current example. They introduced a range of clothing for disabled kids, after grandmother Rita Kutt made them aware of the issue of overpriced clothes. And their range is currently expanding due to its success. They sell popper vests from £3, whereas elsewhere I have seen them advertised upwards of £14 each, which is just insulting.

The SEND community is applauding M&S and rightly so. Remember, we all benefit from this though - them and us. It's not only great publicity for them; it's making them money as they are taking advantage of a huge market the right way - quality products at a fair and reasonable price. And that's all we really want. Equality.

If you hate the special needs price tag as much as I do, please shout about it. Please make businesses aware that this is unacceptable. Please be part of making the change that we all need. Be bold. And be loud! Use people power. Use social media. Shout from the rooftops of Twitter and Facebook. Tag me if you like, on here or Twitter and I'll even shout with you (@LauraRutherford) and so will my friends, who champion access for all. I really believe we can make a difference. We can't sit back and take this any longer.

This post was originally written for and published by the charity Scope. Scope is a charity that exists to make this country a place where disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else.