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Families with disabled children struggling through pandemic

Christine McGuiness
Christine McGuiness Image credit: mirror.co.uk

Results from a new study has shown the impact COVID-19 has had on families with seriously ill or disabled children.

The ‘Mealtimes for All’ survey conducted by McCain and Family Fund reveals the hidden cost behind pandemic.

Out of 1,142 parents of children with a disability 48 per cent said their needs have stopped them from meeting other members of the family and 58 per cent revealed their child has felt isolated and lonely because of coronavirus.

There was a contrast between parents of disabled children and those with a non-disabled child, 87 per cent of youngsters with a disability have had their mealtimes affected, but when it comes to children without a disability the total was just 45 per cent.

Money has been tight for parents bringing up a disabled child, 47 per cent said they are struggling to pay the bills and afford food.

The startling figure has led to 42 per cent of families cutting down on mealtimes and 31 per cent relying on food banks.

At least one in 20 parents have gone without food for a day in order to feed their children, the number rises to a fifth when it comes to families with a severely ill child.

Another shocking figure is that 66 per cent of parents with disabled children have had to spend more on food throughout the pandemic.

Christine McGuiness (pictured above) is mum of three children with autism, she told Mirror Online: "As a mum of three amazing children with autism, I understand the additional challenges faced by many families across the country raising disabled or seriously ill children.

"While me and my husband have embraced more time with our children over the last year, there is no doubt we've faced our share of struggles and tougher moments too, which makes those quality moments together, like mealtimes, all the more important."

Kirsty Waite, whose daughter Heidi has cerebral palsy, said: "The extra support that Family Fund has given to our family, such as providing an iPad to help my daughter Heidi, who has cerebral Palsy, with her schoolwork, has been invaluable.

"It has freed-up time for my husband and me to focus on things that help us spend more quality time together, such as preparing family meals."

The survey also revealed 43 per cent of families with a disabled or serious ill child only find less than an hour a day to spend together in comparison to only 38 per cent of other households.

Just 64 per cent of families with disabled children share mealtimes together compared to 82 per cent of other households

A fifth said the lack of quality time together is because they need to work long hours, 45 per cent find themselves doing household chores at the weekends.

Mums went on to say part of the reason their families have not been able to bond is because of their husband work commitments (22 per cent) or their children are glued to game consoles (27 per cent).

But for families with non-disabled children they have managed to spend more time together (40 per cent) however 56 per cent of families with a disabled child say have less quality time.

Mark Hodge at McCain, said: "The new 'Mealtimes For All' research has shown us that even against the backdrop of the pandemic where we've been spending more time together, for some families the crisis has had a disproportionately negative effect.

"Through our partnership with Family Fund, we want to highlight the great work they do in providing the resources for families to enjoy the small things in life, as well as highlight the little moments they treasure, that many of us take for granted."

Cheryl Ward, Chief Executive of Family Fund, said: "This last year has been tough on everyone, but we know it has particularly put enormous financial and emotional pressure on families we work with - those who are living on low incomes raising a disabled or seriously ill child.

"This report highlights how even simply spending time together has been made more difficult by the pandemic as parents and carers have dealt with new challenges every day."

McCain has donated £1m towards Family Fund to support 150,000 families with disabled or seriously ill children.