Ask your MP to take action to support disabled children

Disabled children and their families have been devastated by the pandemic. We need your help to get those in power to listen.  

Aidan Smith – Campaign Officer at the Disabled Children’s Partnership 

As we come out of lockdown, our country faces a variety of stark choices. One of the biggest is how we decide to treat our citizens who have faced some of the gravest challenges during the pandemic. Do we decide to carry on business as usual, or do we use the freedom from lockdown to implement policies that can help make-up for a year of hurt, and reduce grave – and ever-widening – inequalities? These sorts of choices have the capacity to shape the character of the society we want to be in a post-COVID world. 

The Disabled Children’s Partnership speaks to families and children regularly about their experience of the pandemic. The Longest Lockdown – our latest report taken from the responses of our expert Parent Panel – revealed that at least 70% of the life-changing therapies and routine health appointments that disabled children rely on have been delayed. Some disabled children have gone a whole year without vital therapies which they could only access at school. This has made conditions worsen, and hope drain.  

 My son had an intensive physiotherapy programme 3 days a week and hydrotherapy once per week. He has had NONE of this taking place”  

 “My child has regressed irretrievably, I despair he will ever be able to catch up” 

In total, our report revealed that more than half of parents say their child’s condition has worsened. In some cases, painstaking progress that has taken years to achieve has been erased.  

As a result, the impact on the mental health of parents and children has been terrible. Our report showed that 79% of all parents scored a low level of wellbeing associated with poor mental health. This comes as little surprise when our research also revealed that four in five of families who received formal support services reported that that these had decreased during the pandemic. 

No support: I’m working full time whilst supporting three children at home” 

He had developed an agonizing complication/comorbid condition to his main disability, no specialists have been available to see him, he has been left in agony for five weeks.” 

Despite these glaring problems in the menu of support offered to families, fixing them does not seem to be a Government priority. The recently announced COVID-19 education recovery funding does not mention disabled children and their families at all. Indeed, the public conversation on children and COVID has focused on broad educational attainment. This is too narrow 

Disabled children and their families have not only gone without education services, but a whole suite of other support, including therapies, respite care, and specialist teaching to help children with vital life skills like social communication. This has created an even wider gap across not just education for disabled children, but health and wellbeing as well. 

But it doesn’t have to continue like this. As we come out of lockdown, those in power have the opportunity to put in place an ambitious COVID-19 recovery plan that will make up for this lost year for disabled children and their families 

  • A therapies catch-up plan could help address physical deterioration, for example helping stop muscle degeneration in children with cerebral palsy.  
  • Additional respite care for families would help alleviate exhaustion and combat a poor mental health epidemic 
  • Flexibility to extend or allow repeat funding for disabled young people in further education could help make-up for lost time, and prepare them for transition into adulthood.  

Disabled children and their families are not being heard loud enough by those in power. We need to propel this issue up the political agenda. Whilst there are a small number of MPs who do fantastic work for disabled children, more needs to be done to get their voices heard. They cannot be left behind in the ‘post-COVID’ conversation.  

You can help be part of the change to create a fairer society for disabled children and their families. The Disabled Children’s Partnership is asking for members of the public to write to their MP’s and demand a COVID-19 recovery plan. By generating this public pressure, we can put the issues affecting disabled children and their families squarely on the political map and ensure that – as we ease gradually out of lockdown – targeted recovery policies are put in place to make-up for a lost year of development. Join us, and be part of the change we have to see.  

Aidan Smith 

Campaign Officer at the Disabled Children’s Partnership