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New report shows parents with disabled children abandoned in lockdown

By Chris Hill · June 16, 2020

parents with child on a hospital bed with ventilator, with their WellChild Nurse

Disabled children and their families have been left in lockdown with vital care and support withdrawn during the coronavirus pandemic, an extensive survey by the Disabled Children’s Partnership (DCP) has found.

In 76 per cent of cases support has stopped altogether, leaving parents and young siblings taking on all care responsibilities around the clock. You can read the full report here.

Disabled children’s friendships, learning, communication, behaviour and mental and physical health have suffered.

Parents already struggling before the pandemic, due to lack of support, feel locked out during lockdown, abandoned by society and fearful for their own physical and mental health.


  • Recognises and respects disabled children’s increasingly vulnerable situation during the pandemic
  • Prioritises disabled children and their families as the most in need
  • Produces a practical plan to support families caring for vulnerable children at home and a medically-sound route map for their eventual return to school and society
  • Provides resources, acknowledging health, social care and education funding was already inadequate before the pandemic.

Disabled children and young people must receive regular funded support with care and emotional and physical well-being needs at home or in the community. Priority must be given to those children who cannot attend school due to complex health conditions or needing to shield with their families.


The Disabled Children’s Partnership is a growing coalition of more than 70 charities, including WellChild, who have joined forces in partnership with parents, to campaign for improved health and social care for disabled children, young people and their families.

Its survey of 4,074 parents found that:

  • Most parent carers (72%) are providing a lot more care compared with the amount before lockdown. Just over two thirds (68%). said non–disabled siblings were also providing a lot more care
  • For those who had previously received support, 76% have seen it stop.
  • Half of parents whose children had been receiving crucial therapies or other extra support have seen this stop. 86% say lockdown has had a negative impact on their disabled children’s learning and communication.
  • Lockdown has led to some parents not seeking necessary medical health for their disabled children (44%), themselves or their partner (54%) or their non-disabled children (17%). Nearly half (45%) say their disabled children’s physical health has declined and 54% say the same about their own health.
  • The majority (70-80%) report worsening emotional and mental health for both their children and themselves.
  • The majority (70%) of parents whose children were eligible for a school place had not taken them up; mainly because of concerns about their children’s health or because the right provision was not available.
  • Before the surprise shielding announcement on 29 May – 62% of families said they agreed or strongly agreed that government information about shielding is confusing.
  • The majority (64%) of parents were worried about how much home schooling they were doing with their disabled child and 32% said they were receiving no support specific to their child’s needs from school; on the other hand, a quarter were getting good support.
  • 83% say lockdown is having a negative impact on their disabled child’s friendships.
  • Lockdown is impacting on the statutory rights of disabled children – two-thirds going through an assessment process had seen it delayed; 43% of annual reviews had lapsed or been put on hold.
  • Families are facing financial pressures, through either, or both, a reduction in income (39%) or increased costs (61%). One in five (21%) said they will go into debt as a result.

Colin Dyer, Chief Executive of WellChild said: “This report represents more evidence of how the needs of disabled children and their families have been forgotten about during this crisis. From day one, families that WellChild support have been struggling without clear and specific guidance, or adequate contingency plans for the provision of vital care, support and supplies such as PPE and equipment. As the rest of the country eases out of lockdown, many of these families will be shielding for the foreseeable future. Practical plans for this vulnerable group must urgently be put in place.  “