Revealed: Shocking number of families with disabled children who are at risk of poverty

A survey carried out by the charity Contact reveals the reality of the cost of raising a child with disabilities

It is the agonising decision some families with disabled children are forced to make. Struggling to get by, they are forced to choose between paying the bills or buying food.

Research shows that it costs families three times more to raise a disabled child than it does to raise a child without disabilities.

There are now more disabled children than ever before in the North East, and due to Government cuts, it is making it more difficult for families to get by.

Shocking figures provided by the charity Contact reveal that 52% of families with a disabled child are at risk of poverty.

In the North East, 35% of those families are going without heating and 31% are going without food.

And this had led to 61% of people in those families suffering ill health.

Every day items such as a pair of socks can cost so much more for a child with special needs. Other examples include:

• A specially made car seat for a disabled child could cost up to £600 while one for a non-disabled child could be around £149.

• A specially adapted bike could set a family back around £800 while a regular bike is around £79.

• A pair of specially measured sandals would cost around £120 while any others would be significantly lower at around £34.

The huge price tags that come with specialist items are the reason that organisations like the Sunshine Fund are so important.

The charity fundraises to buy specialist equipment for children with disabilities in the North East when they can’t get it on the NHS.

Their annual Go Bananas campaign kicked off on June 1 and they are aiming to raise £60,000.

Some of the children involved in this year’s campaign include:

• Amélie Holden – a three-year-old girl who needs an iPad pro to communicate with her family as she is non-verbal.

• Thomas Wright – a 13-year-old boy who needs a specialist bike to enjoy family days out

• Erin Reed – a three-year-old girl who needs a specialist seat to use at nursery as she can’t sit up by herself

Sarah Johnson, director of the Sunshine Fund said: “Costs of raising a child with an additional need are often significantly underestimated.

“At the Sunshine Fund we appreciate that a family’s financial situation is changed dramatically when bringing up a child with additional needs.

“Through an application process the charity supplies specialist equipment to children with disabilities across the North East free of charge.

“By providing equipment for children with disabilities we hope to reduce some of the financial pressure that parents and carers experience.“

Amanda Batten, chief executive of Contact, said: “Increased living costs and cuts to financial support have left some North East families with disabled children reeling.

“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.

“These money worries are putting huge emotional and mental strain on the families we work with.

“The impact is affecting their health, relationships and in some cases is making their child’s condition worse. It doesn’t have to be like this. We all have a role to play in doing something about it. That’s why we are calling on the Government and energy companies to help and for more families with disabled children to get in touch with us for advice.

“It is a national scandal that the health of some disabled children and their families is in jeopardy. We must act quickly to address this.

“There is an energy bill crisis for all families, with prices rocketing over the last few years. But families with disabled children face bigger than average bills because many conditions worsen in the cold weather or require electrical equipment for care and families are at home more.”