There has been a sharp rise in the number of families with disabled children going without heating and food over the last two years, says the charity Contact a Family. This is leading to too many disabled children and their families suffering ill health.
In one of the biggest surveys of its kind with over 3,500 respondents, the charity’s Counting the Costs 2014 report found that 33 per cent of families with disabled children are going without heating – up from 21 per cent in 2012 – while the number going without food has nearly doubled from 16 per cent in 2012 to 31 per cent now. Of those surveyed who are going without and are in debt, 22 per cent say their child’s health has worsened as a result, while 64 per cent say they have suffered ill health as a result.
A third of those surveyed say they are worse off as a result of benefit changes – nearly half by £1560 a year – and 60 per cent see their financial situation worsening in the next year.
“Increased living costs and cuts to financial support have left some families with disabled children reeling”, says Amanda Batten, Chief Executive of Contact a Family. “Despite the economy showing signs of recovery, families with disabled children are not optimistic about the coming years. Instead they feel they are facing an increasingly precarious financial future.”
More than a quarter of families surveyed have extra costs relating to their child’s disability of £300 or more every month, with the biggest cost being heating and utility bills. When asked what would help with the extra costs they face, families called for discounts from energy companies (21 per cent) and more support through the benefits system (24 per cent). Almost two- thirds (61 per cent) said they were confused about the recent benefit changes.
Amanda Batten believes “It is a national scandal that the health of some disabled children and their families is in jeopardy.” The charity is calling on the Government to ensure the welfare system reflects the extra costs and barriers to work that families with disabled children face. It is also urging energy companies to offer discounts to households with a disabled child.
To view the report, click here.