Families of disabled children ‘abandoned’ during lockdown with 76% reporting no support at all

The families of disabled children have been “abandoned” during lockdown, leading charities have warned after a new survey found that support has dried up for many families.

Three quarters (76%) of parents of disabled children said that support has stopped altogether since lockdown.

Just 8% said support had stayed the same.

A new report from the Disabled Children’s Partnership (DCP), a coalition of health and care organisations and charities, concludes that parents are reporting an increase in care responsibilities for parents and siblings.

“Parents feel exhausted, stressed, anxious and abandoned by society,” the report states.

“In many cases, the support families previously received has now stopped.”

A survey of 4,000 parents of disabled children from across the UK found that 72% said they are providing a lot more care compared with the amount before lockdown.

And 68% say non–disabled siblings were also providing a lot more care.

Parents expressed concern over their child’s mental health as a result of lockdown, 30% said their disabled child’s emotional and mental health is a lot worse.

And nearly a third (32%) said their own mental health is a lot worse.

Amanda Batten (pictured), chairwoman of the DCP, said: “Our survey reveals that families of disabled children feel abandoned in lockdown, dealing with intense pressures as support is stripped bare, during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“As many begin to emerge from lockdown, spare a thought for those left in it.

“Families with disabled children are crying out for more support.

“Education support, therapies, respite and equipment have all been reduced or inaccessible.

“Families have filled this void for 12 weeks but it is neither ethical nor sustainable for much longer.

“The health and social care system was already in crisis, without the resources to support disabled children.

“It will be even more stretched in future.

“The Government needs to start planning now for enhancing funding for disabled children’s health and social care so that they are not left even further behind their peers.”

The survey also found that 86% of parents believe lockdown has had a negative impact on their disabled children’s learning and communication.

And some have put off seeking medical health for their children or themselves as a result of social restrictions.

Issues around home schooling have also arisen, with a third saying they were receiving no support specific to their child’s needs from school.

Many have not taken up school places because of concerns over their child’s health or because the right provision was not available.

Commenting on the survey, Ian Noon, head of policy at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said: “This survey shows the impossible battle that many parents of disabled children face on a daily basis.

“The support these children receive is crucial, yet despite the best efforts of many professionals, families are being left to cope alone.

“The Government has shown during the coronavirus pandemic that it can introduce radical changes in a matter of days.

“Moving forward, we will need that same innovation, ingenuity and urgency to make sure every child gets the support they need and the future they deserve.”

Edel Harris, chief executive of learning disability charity Mencap – a member of the Disabled Children’s Partnership – added: “It’s no wonder that many disabled children and their families feel abandoned during the coronavirus pandemic – with three quarters of families reporting that their support stopped completely during lockdown.

“We are hearing from parents and unpaid carers of children with a learning disability that they are struggling to cope without support, and it’s pushing families to crisis point.

“The Government must not forget disabled children and their families. We urge the Government to make sure additional funding for vital support reaches frontline providers now so no child is left behind during lockdown.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Our first priority remains the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable children, including those with special educational needs and disabilities.

“Schools have remained open to vulnerable children, including those with Education Health and Care plans, and we have issued guidance on how to support these pupils as they return to the classroom. We are also supporting parents at home, with targeted online learning resources and additional funding worth £37 million to support families of disabled children facing unique challenges during the pandemic.

“Councils are also receiving an additional £3.2 billion to manage any additional pressures arising from the coronavirus outbreak, including for services like respite care.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2020, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) The Disabled Children’s Partnership.