'Reaching breaking point': Report highlights pandemic strain on families with special needs children

Families of children with disabilities or special needs are “reaching breaking point” during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report.

The strains of the pandemic on families with children with special needs have been examined in a report
The strains of the pandemic on families with children with special needs have been examined in a report

A West Midlands “Health of the Region” report details the effects of Covid-19, and notes that around one in eight families surveyed by a Telford & Wrekin charity said they were “doing really bad”.

The authors say Parents Opening Doors, which supports under-25s, is “becoming increasingly concerned by reports from families regarding a lack of support”.

The document will be discussed by the West Midlands Combined Authority’s Wellbeing Board when it meets on Friday, January 22.

The authors say the report shows that “long-standing inequalities in physical and mental health have widened as a result of the pandemic, both through direct effects of the virus and through indirect effects of the control measures taken”.

In a section about “people with complex needs and carers”, they write: “People with disabilities or complex medical needs are significantly more likely to be at risk of complications from Covid-19 and are therefore more likely to be shielding.

“Parents Opening Doors is a peer-led charity based in Telford & Wrekin that involves and supports families of children and young people who have an additional need, a disability, or SEND [special education needs or disability].

“The charity is becoming increasingly concerned by reports from families regarding a lack of support, and families of children with complex needs who are reaching breaking point.

Shielding

“A survey of their members carried out in June 2020 found that 71 per cent of respondents were shielding; approximately 59 per cent of families said they were ‘doing OK’, 26 per cent were ‘not doing very well’ and around half of these said they were ‘doing really bad’.”

The report authors add that, while many families “reported positive aspects to lockdown, including more time to spend with their children and on play”, stress and loneliness were “major concerns for both parents and children”.

The report is co-authored by a five-person team including WMCA Wellbeing and Prevention chief Mubasshir Ajaz and Public Health England Population Health Intelligence Hub leader Lina Martino.

Its recommendations to the government include “doubling the proportion of health and social care spending focussed on prevention and public health from five to 10 per cent over time” and “making health and wellbeing outcomes a key driver of economic development and levelling-up policies”.

The document also discusses the impact of the pandemic on the general population and groups including ethnic minorities, the physically disabled and homeless people.

Telford & Wrekin Council is not a full member of the WMCA. It, like Shropshire Council, is one of 10 “non-constituent authorities” who send representatives to some of its meetings but whose population does not get to vote in its mayoral elections.

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