Families with disabled children in the UK feel stigmatised and shut out from society, according to recent research published by Contact a Family.
Contact a Family surveyed 615 families with disabled children about their experiences of living in the UK, asking what makes you stronger practically, socially and emotionally. What makes my family stronger found negative attitudes towards disability coupled with a lack of services are the main barriers preventing families with disabled children from leading ordinary lives. While some families show resilience, imagination and great strength attempting to overcome these barriers, there are some who cannot cope any longer and are at breaking point.
Key findings of the What makes my family stronger report are:
- Almost 70% of families with disabled children said that understanding and acceptance of disability from their community or society is poor or unsatisfactory.
- Over 60% of families said they don't feel listened to by professionals.
- Vital support services such as short breaks, a key worker and childcare are unavailable to almost half of families.
- Over 60% of families said they don't feel valued by society in their role as carers.
- Half of families with disabled children said the opportunity to enjoy play and leisure together is poor or unsatisfactory.
Srabani Sen, Chief Executive of Contact a Family, said: "It is shocking that in the UK today, attitudes towards disabled children, from professionals and members of the public, are among the barriers preventing families from leading ordinary lives. Families with disabled children have enough challenges to overcome to secure the support they need without also having to cope with prejudice and ignorance."
Contact a Family is calling for:
- The government to invest in a UK-wide campaign to raise awareness of the needs of families with disabled children.
- Everyone working in a public facing role in the UK to be given disability equality training.
- A stronger focus on disability awareness in schools.
- The government to commit to urgently reviewing carers' benefits and set a clear timetable for reform.
Contact a Family welcomes the government's recent investment in services for disabled children and their families, but there is still a long way to go before the right support is available to all who need them.
Srabani Sen added: "Families with disabled children want the same things as other families. They want to see their children reach their full potential, they want to be included and accepted by their community and they want to enjoy time together and have fun.
"For this to happen, professionals need to recognise each child's capabilities rather than seeing only disability. They must also recognise the value and expertise of parent carers. And every one of us needs to be more understanding and accepting of disability."