Disabled children and young people are suffering, according to Alex Cunningham, because their families are being left with no choice but to forego essentials such as heating and food as they struggle to make ends meet.
The Stockton North MP has called for urgent actions to address this situation and prevent such circumstances occurring, and pledged his support for the Counting the Costs campaign which aims to help families with disabled children get better deals on energy bills and provide expert financial help to ensure disabled children get the support they are entitled to.
Contact a Family, the charity behind the campaign conducted research investigating the financial situation of families with disabled children. The findings reveal a sharp rise in families going without heating and food. Fully one-third of families questioned said they regularly go without heating, up from 21 per cent in 2012, while the number going without food has nearly doubled to 31 per cent.
“It is an uncomfortable reality that childhood disability is frequently a trigger for poverty because families incur considerable additional and ongoing expenses as a result, with costs being as much as three times higher to bring up a disabled child than to bring up a child without disability.
“But it is nonetheless hard to believe that, in this day and age, families with disabled children are going without essentials like heating and food or relying on services such as food banks. The latest Counting the Costs research shows that the prevalence has worsened over the last two years, which is why I am proud to support Contact a Family’s call for measures such as offering discounts on energy bills for families with disabled children and increasing support for childcare to make it more affordable.
“A recent parliamentary inquiry found 43 per cent of parents with disabled children paid over £11 an hour for childcare, compared to the national average of £3.50-4.50. At Report Stages of the Childcare Payments Bill recently, I fought to increase the amount of top-up available for parents of disabled children under the proposed tax-free childcare scheme, and hope that Peers in the House of Lords will continue with this effort.
“Children around the country are suffering as a direct result of the sacrifices that their families are having to make. Over one-fifth of families who have had to go without food or heating said that their child’s health had suffered as a result. This cannot be allowed to continue.”