A new study suggests that one in five families with disabled children in Wales are going without food to make ends meet.
A quarter of the people surveyed by the charity Contact a Family also said they could not afford to heat their homes.
The charity is now urging families to write to their MP to highlight the problem.
The Welsh government said one of its top priorities was to reduce poverty in Wales and the effects that poverty had on people’s life chances.
Moira Hookings, a single mother from Newport, has an eight-year-old son with autism and she told Good Morning Wales about the challenges she faces.
Counting the costs – our new research finds one in seven working families with disabled children are going without food
May 23 2012
Poverty widespread in 2012
Families with disabled children are going without essentials and spiralling into debt, even before the full impact of planned benefit cuts is felt.
Contact a Family’s Counting the Costs 2012 survey shows that for those families who are in jobs:
- one in seven (14 per cent) are missing meals
- one in six (17 per cent) cannot afford to heat their homes.
For those who can’t work because they are caring for a disabled child:
- almost a quarter (24 per cent) are going without food
- a third (32 per cent) without heating.
Families with disabled children are more likely to be living in poverty. Additional costs in transport, heating, special food and clothing means that it costs three-times more to raise a disabled child see table of costs. This is on top of the difficulty of combining caring and work. Counting the Costs 2012 also found that:
- almost a third (29 per cent) have taken out loans – from loan sharks, quick cash schemes, banks or family and friends – to afford everyday essentials such as groceries and heating
- over a third (41 per cent) have fallen behind with payments for gas and electric bills, council tax, rent and mortgage
We are calling on the government to exempt families with disabled children from cuts to financial support and to target additional support to families through Universal Credit when they publish the detail of the new single monthly payment.
Srabani Sen, Chief Executive of Contact a Family, says: “There is an opportunity for the government to make the financial situation of families with disabled children better. We strongly urge them to use the opportunity to improve the financial misery these families are dealing with every day. Families with disabled children contribute a huge amount to the economy by working and caring, saving the NHS and social services billions each year. Our research shows that it’s vital more is done to help those caring for a disabled child.”
Moira Hookings, mum to Leon who has Autism, said: “I’ve axed my weekly shop and regularly go without meals to make sure Leon has enough. He gets upset when I don’t eat but I just tell him not to worry as I’m not hungry. I’ve borrowed money from family to pay for food, gas and electric and I took out a credit card for Leon’s school uniform and footwear which I am now paying off at £20 a month.”
Families also face discrimination and stigma
Our research also reveals that the stigma associated with claiming benefits for disabled children is rife. The lack of understanding about the considerable ongoing extra costs of raising a disabled child is leaving many families judged as living off the state, lazy, work-shy and cheating the system. Melanie Pither, mum to Owen who has Cerebral Palsy, said: “We’ve had insults from people who think we are having a free-ride on the back of tax payer’s money. What they don’t realise is just how much we are saving this government. My care is worth £45,990 a year but yet I’m made to feel guilty about claiming a tiny fraction of that back in financial support.”
Take action and write to your MP
Contact a Family has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the financial hardship for families with disabled children. Click on the link above to take action.
Take action against persistent poverty experienced by families with disabled children across the UK
May 23 2012
Following the launch of our Counting the Costs 2012 report, we are urging everyone shocked at our survey findings to take action by writing to their MP and/or local councillors with the urgent call to exempt families with disabled children from cuts to vital financial support.
Counting the Costs 2012, in line with findings from 2008 and 2010, shows going without essentials and getting into debt to pay for food, heating and clothes is the norm for most families with disabled children.
If you think something must be done to stop the persistent poverty experienced by so many families with disabled children – you can write to your local MP and/or councillors by visiting writetothem.org
- Simply enter your postcode
- Click into your MP’s/councillor’s name
- Fill out your details
- Include the points we’ve raised below in your letter
- If you have a disabled child please add your own experience and what a cut of £26 would mean for your family
Don’t forget to let us know that you have taken action by emailing email@example.com so we can keep track of the impact of the campaign. Thanks!
We suggest you include the following information.
- You are writing to your MP/local councillor about the shocking financial hardship families with disabled children are experiencing
- The findings of Contact a Family’s new research Counting the Costs 2012 shows families with disabled children are going without essentials and spiralling into debt, even before the full impact of planned benefit cuts is felt
- The charity’s Counting the Costs 2012 survey shows that for those families who are in jobs one in seven (14 per cent) are missing meals and one in six (17 per cent) cannot afford to heat their homes
- For those who can’t work because they are caring for a disabled child almost a quarter (24 per cent) are going without food and a third (32 per cent) without heating
- The national and local government must exempt families with disabled children from cuts to vital financial support. Local councils should protect families with disabled children from cuts under Council Tax Benefit reform
- Over 2,300 parent carers responded to the survey and told Contact a Family about the harsh choices they constantly have to make and the stigma they feel from others about claiming benefits for their disabled children
- The findings show that some have already been affected by changes to the benefits system, which is worsening families’ financial situation. For many others they are extremely distressed about having to cut back further when the cumulative impact of welfare reforms hit
- Insert you own family experience
- Include information about Contact a Family www.cafamily.org.uk/news/enewsletters.html and freephone helpline on 0808 808 3555.