A third of parents of disabled children took out loans to buy basics last year
Thursday, 24 May 2012
Almost a third of families with disabled children have taken out loans in the past year to help them afford basic everyday essentials such as food and heating, research has revealed.
For those families where parents are in work, one in six say they cannot afford to heat their homes. For those families where parents are not working because of their caring responsibilities, almost a third (32%) have difficulty paying heating bills and almost a quarter (24%) told the survey that the extra costs of bringing up a disabled child meant they occasionally went without food.
The survey of 2,300 families conducted by the charity Contact a Family, which supports families with disabled children, also shows that 58% of these families fear their financial situation will worsen over the next year, with 73% of them saying they believe welfare reforms will make them poorer.
The charity's Counting the Costs 2012 report gives a sharp insight into the extra financial pressures faced by families bringing up disabled children, at a time when changes to the welfare system, central and local government cuts and dwindling revenues to charities are making support harder to access.
Around 41% of families have fallen behind with payments for gas and electricity bills, council tax, rent and mortgage, the survey revealed. Some 86% said they had gone without leisure activities and days out because of financial pressures. Of those families who had been forced into debt, 20% had taken out high-interest internet payday loans.
The charity estimates that it costs three times more to raise a disabled child, usually because of the extra cost of transport and specialist clothing, food and equipment.
'In 2012, the need to reduce the budget deficit has created new pressures on vital benefits and services for families with disabled children already experiencing persistent poverty,' the report states.
The report details the extra costs of raising disabled children excluding care, citing, among a long list, the cost of a specially adapted bicycle (£800) compared with a regular child bike (£79); the cost of a specialist computer mouse (£200) compared with a regular mouse (£20); and specially measured sandals (£120) compared with a high street pair (£34).
It also notes that parents are complaining of rising popular hostility towards people with disabilities. 'I am fed up with people accusing me of making my son's disability up. Some even go as far as to accuse us of having a wheelchair, not because he needs it but so I can scrounge off decent people. The negative comments and hostility have got a thousand times worse in my experience,' says one parent quoted in the report.
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: 'This government is committed to supporting disabled people and continues to spend over £40bn a year on disabled people and their services. However, too many people have been systematically failed by the current benefits system. That is why we are driving forward our welfare reforms to simplify the system and offer more targeted support to improve the life outcomes for disadvantaged children.'