Posted: 07 October 2011

320,000: The true number of disabled children in poverty

Throughout our 130-year-history, we have always worked with the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children. That’s what makes us The Children’s Society.

Our experience shows just how disability can be a key driver of children’s social disadvantage and exclusion. This was brought into sharp focus today with the release of our new report, 4 in every 10: Disabled children living in poverty (full text, summary).

Our report shows that 320,000 disabled children in the UK live in poverty – not only is that a staggering number, it’s around 30,000 more than the government’s official statistics suggest.

Additional costs

Our analysis accounts for the additional costs that families with disabled children face. These costs can cover a wide variety of things, depending on a young person’s disability.

For example, we work with a mum and her daughter, Anna, who has Down's syndrome, muscle weakness and a lack of sensitivity to temperature. As a result of her disabilities, Anna needs the family house to be warmer than most homes, and there are significant costs for her transportation. 

Currently, families such as Anna’s can qualify for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to cover additional costs. (Anna’s mother Rachel told us that although she receives the maximum amount of DLA, it is still not enough to offset all of the additional costs required to pay for her daughter’s care.)

Staggering poverty rates

Our analysis uses DLA as a proxy for the additional costs, and shows the poverty rates for families with disabled children once this benefit has been deducted from household income.

Once these costs are taken into account, we find that 40% of, or 320,000, disabled children live in poverty, including some 110,000 who live in severe poverty.

What’s more, when there is also a disabled adult in the household, half of disabled children in the UK live in poverty.

Help stop plans to cut support for disabled children

Despite these staggering findings, the government still retains plans to impose its Universal Credit, which cuts support for upwards of 100,000 disabled children by up to £27 per week. This change is likely to push still more families with disabled children into poverty. 

Disabled children in low income families cannot be allowed to fall off the agenda.  We need the government to take urgent action now to ensure that support is extended – not cut – in order to give every disabled child the very best chance of a good childhood and a bright future.

In coordination with 30 major national organisations we have set up a petition to call on the government to reverse unfair cuts to disabled children’s support. So far, more than 5000 people have signed up to show their support for this petition.

We ask you to sign the petition now and share it with your friends and family.

By Sam Royston, Policy Adviser at The Children’s Society

By Sam Royston - Policy team

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