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Disabled children are going without meals

kids eating school dinners

A children’s charity warns disabled children are living in houses without electricity or heating because their families can not afford to pay bills because of the cost-of-living crisis.

According to the Childhood Trust young people with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) are the innocent victims of increasing energy bills and other inflation.

Research shows families with disabled children need an additional £581 a month in their pocket to have an equal standard of living to those with non disabled children.

Laurence Guinness, chief executive of The Childhood Trust, told The Guardian: “Adjusted for inflation, that [£581 figure] is going to be much higher now.

“We know everyone’s been disadvantaged, but I think the data tells us that kids with Send are suffering disproportionately, which is really alarming because they are our most vulnerable.

“During Covid old people were disproportionately affected – they were dying in care homes at alarming rates. This is another scenario akin to that where the weakest, the most vulnerable, the ones who should get the most support and protection are in fact massively lacking support and [are] invisible.”

This week the Childhood Trust launched its Champions for Children appeal, over the next fortnight their fundraiser has set a target of £3.5m to go towards a year-long comprehensive programme supporting 10,000 vulnerable and disadvantaged young people.

Compiling research from social workers, charities and families with Send children the trust concluded youngsters are going without meals because their parents are struggling to keep the home warm.

Disabled children are not attending school and when they do are being bullied in mainstream education. 

It’s more expensive to raise a disabled child, some require hoists to move them in and out of wheelchairs, electric adjustable beds or dedicated fridges to store medication, all of which bump up electricity bills. They also may need accessible transport, sanitary protection and extra medical equipment.

Social workers are also struggling to meet disabled children needs such as providing personal care and taking them on day excursions.

Guinness says supporting charities such as TAG Youth Club helps provide activities including rock climbing, fencing, Ninja Warrior training and cooking for Send children.

The service has become more popular this year with members rising from 98 to 246. Chief executive Giles Hobart said:  “It’s because we offer affordable activities. Parents before were looking at things like theme parks and now they’re too expensive. We just ask for a donation.”

TAG welcomes children with any form of disability, from autism to Downs syndrome so they can interact with others. The youngsters receive bonus meals in their cooking classes. 

Hobart said: “They get put in microwavable pots and we say ‘There’s some spare meals if anyone wants one’. People don’t want to be seen to have handouts. But all the meals go.”

But he went on to say grants from organisations such as Greater London Authority and the National Lottery only last a few years.

“They expect to give you a three-year grant then carry on. But a lot of organisations shut down and they have to find another one. We started because another club closed down. It’s a vicious circle.”

[ The Childhood Trust supports over 200 grassroot charities ]

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