Stretched family finances harming disabled children's health, warns charity

Derren Hayes
Thursday, December 4, 2014

Disabled children's health is suffering as a result of government austerity measures affecting their parent's finances, Contact a Family has warned.

Contact a Family says some disabled children's conditions are getting worse as a result of government austerity
Contact a Family says some disabled children's conditions are getting worse as a result of government austerity

A survey by the charity of more than 3,500 parents of disabled children found that cuts to state support and increased living costs has led to more families having to cut back on food and heating to make ends meet since the previous survey was carried out two years ago.

The findings, detailed in its Counting the Cost 2014 report, show that a third of families with disabled children had gone without heating, up from a fifth in 2012, and the number going without food had almost doubled from 16 per cent in 2012 to 31 per cent now.

Of those parents struggling financially, 22 per cent said their child’s health had worsened due to the problem, while 64 per cent said their own health had also suffered with the subsequent stress having a knock-on effect on their child.

As well as going without basics, more than a quarter of families told the charity they cannot afford specialist equipment, adaptations or therapies for their child. Meanwhile, one in 10 said they had missed medical appointments due to the cost of fuel or transport.
 
Amanda Batten, chief executive of Contact a Family, said it was a “national scandal” that the health of disabled children and their families is suffering due to increased living costs and cuts to financial support.

She said: “These money worries are putting huge emotional and mental strain on the families we work with. The impact is affecting their health, relationships and in some cases is making their child’s condition worse.

“We all have a role to play in doing something about it. That’s why we are calling on the government and energy companies to help and for more families with disabled children to get in touch with us for advice.”

The charity’s survey also found that a third of families reported being worse off now than two years ago as a result changes to their benefits, around half by as much as £1,500 a year. A further 36 per cent had taken out a loan to bridge the gap in finances, up from 29 per cent in 2012.

The majority (60 per cent) also expected their situation to deteriorate in 2015.
 
According to Contact a Family, families with disabled children face extra living costs, mainly on utility bills, related to the child’s disability of about £300 a month. It is campaigning for the welfare system to properly reflect the additional costs and for energy companies to offer discounts to help reduce the impact of fuel bills on families with a disabled child.

Counting the Costs is an online survey that was carried out between May and July, and has been repeated every two years since 2008.

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