Disabled children’s experiences of low income

Some families cannot afford the basic necessities a disabled child is entitled to under international law in order to live a dignified life, according to a study prepared for the children's rights watchdog for England.

The study was conducted by a team from the Centre for Children and Young People's Participation at the University of Central Lancashire. It explores disabled children’s experiences of living in low-income families, based on interviews and group discussions involving 78 disabled children/young people and 17 parents.  

Key findings

  • Low income is a vital component in explaining why some disabled children and young people fail to enjoy their rights. In some cases low income is a direct explanatory factor. In others, money enables individuals and families to find alternatives to provision and support that they are denied or unable to access from public services.
  • Nonetheless, money – or specifically low income – is not always the main or only reason why some disabled children and young people are not able to attain the rights that should be afforded them.
  • Disabled children also face additional barriers to the enjoyment of their rights that arise from a lack of training for the professionals they rely on, inadequacy of provision, insufficient personal assistance, and the principle of best interests being inadequately applied to decisions that affect them. This is symptomatic of a lack of priority being accorded to the obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of disabled children.

The report calls on the government to ensure that disabled children's views are clearly reflected in decision-making on both welfare reforms and action to tackle child poverty. It also asks local authorities to ensure that disabled children from low-income families can access local services (such as play, sport, leisure and cultural opportunities), including through improved transport services.

Maggie Atkinson, Children's Commissioner for England, said: '[This report] paints a disturbing picture of the lives of many disabled children living in low income families. Whilst most feel loved and supported, some cannot afford the basic necessities to live in dignity. This is simply not good enough and breaches their rights. Disabled young people are already some of the most vulnerable members of our society and being raised in poverty makes this even more acute'.

: Cath Larkins, Nigel Thomas, Dawn Judd, Jane Lloyd, Bernie Carter and Nicola Farrelly (with Ross Hendry and Lisa Davis) et al., 'We Want to Help People See Things Our Way': A Rights-Based Analysis of Disabled Children's Experience Living with Low Income, Office of the Children's Commissioner
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Publication date: 
Oct 15 2013