Cuts forcing families with disabled children into debt

Charity urges the government to protect families with disabled children as national survey reveals they are missing meals and taking out loans to pay their bills.

Families with disabled children are being sucked into debt and forced to go without essentials as the economy worsens, according to research by Contact a Family.

The charity surveyed 2,312 UK parents with disabled children and found that, in working families, one in seven are missing meals and one in six cannot afford to heat their homes.

Among those out of work, almost a quarter are skipping meals and a third say they cannot afford to heat their homes.

The survey also revealed 29% had taken out loans in the past 12 months, up 4% on 2010. Their reasons for borrowing, which included borrowing from banks and loan sharks, included paying for groceries, heating, toys, bedding, clothes and holidays.

Nearly 60% of the families fear their financial situation will worsen in the next year – up 15% since 2010 – with 73% of them citing welfare reforms as the main reason for their concerns.

The charity warned that families with disabled children are more likely to be living in poverty than others, with the cost of raising a disabled child three times higher due to their additional needs, such as transport, heating, special food and clothing.

This is added to the pressures of combining paid work with caring duties.

Contact a Family chief Srabani Sen urged the government to shield families with disabled children from benefit cuts and give them extra money through the Universal Credit.

“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,” she said.

Contact a Family has also launched a campaign to raise awareness of the financial hardship for families with disabled children.

The charity is urging affected families to write to their MP, detailing the charity’s findings and their own related experiences.

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