Bury St Edmunds disability support campaigner Thomas Howard presents petition signed by thousands to Downing Street
A Bury St Edmunds campaigner has visited Downing Street to present a petition signed by thousands of people calling on the Government to continue cost-of-living support for the disabled.
Thomas Howard, 27, launched the petition in mid-December and aimed to reach 5,000 signatures, which was smashed within a matter of days and by mid-January it was signed by 50,000 people.
Following Thomas’ visit to No. 10 on Saturday, the petition has grown to more than 60,000 signatures and includes support from disability charity, Epilepsy Action.
“I’ve been completely overwhelmed throughout the entire campaign by the positive response and all the supportive comments,” said Thomas, who has autism.
“It has also been beneficial to me to read through the comments on the petition page. It motivates me.
“I can just say here’s the petition and that’s it but I’m keen to keep pushing it until I get a response from the Government.”
Thomas is advocating for disabled people who may have higher energy bills due to medical equipment being on throughout the day and night.
He said although the payments did not go far enough they went some way in helping those with disabilities.
He is calling for an immediate review of the Disability Cost of Living Payments, which is an extra payment made to help those with disabilities.
However, it is believed there are no current future plans to continue the benefit.
Thomas said: “It’s really disheartening because people don’t choose to have disabilities.
“It’s something that people are either born with or it happens throughout their lives and it’s unfair that they should face higher costs and bigger financial burden because of that.
He continued: “This payment was made to around six million eligible individuals in autumn 2022 and early summer 2023 and then the news of this financial support disappeared.
“Campaign groups, lobbyists and MPs have since questioned the government and it appears that at present there is no current plan to continue this financial support.
“But the fact remains, disabled people have been disproportionately affected by the cost-of-living crisis.
“I've been contacted by individuals that require round the clock heating due to their lung condition or constant use of electricity for their medical equipment.
“It's not possible for these individuals to simply cut their energy usage as doing so could have a severe impact on their health and wellbeing.”
Thomas has also written a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt and Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill.
However, Thomas described the lack of response from either individuals as upsetting but not surprising.
He hopes the petition will help to raise awareness of the issue and put pressure on the Government to take action.
Thomas added: “If there is no public outcry, nothing will be addressed or achieved.
“I hope this will put it on their radar and help to create some kind of change.”