Caring for a disabled child affects parents’ mental and physical health

Caring for a child with special educational needs and disabilities is affecting parents’ wellbeing, relationships and sleep, says a new report.

Wednesday, 15th May 2019, 10:54 am
Updated Wednesday, 15th May 2019, 5:15 pm
Caring for a disabled child affects parents’ mental and physical health

Sheffield Parent Carer Forum says 95 per cent of families have admitted caring had affected them.

Over a third of parents said that they often neglected themselves – higher than in a 2014 survey, where it was a quarter of respondents.

Almost a quarter of parents had never had a day or an evening off from caring and more than half had never had a weekend off.

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The Forum gathered feedback from more than 700 parents for its State of Sheffield report and compared the results with a survey from 2014.

The report says: “Ninety-five per cent of parents reported that caring had affected their wellbeing, particularly their emotional wellbeing, their sleep and their relationships.

“Sixty-four per cent also reported a negative impact on their mental health and more than half said that caring had affected their physical health.

“Compared to our 2014 survey, there was a marked increase in the percentage of parents who reported a negative impact on their mental health (from 49 per cent to 64 per cent).”

Well over half of the parents who said they were “struggling” or “not coping” were not receiving any support from social care services.

Many of the families also faced additional pressures – almost a fifth of parents had a disability or long-term illness themselves, almost a third had more than one child with SEND, 16 per cent also provided care for an adult over the age of 25 and almost a quarter were one-parent families.

Parents said they wanted training to help them cope with the demands of caring. Their top priorities for training were supporting their child’s emotional wellbeing and mental health, understanding the SEN system and their rights as carers, managing challenging behaviour, coping with stress and helping their child with sensory issues.

The Forum says training is only a small part of the solution – making the system easier to navigate and providing struggling families with quick access to social care services like short breaks services and overnight respite is more important.

As one parent says: “You seem to have to be at breaking point to receive services. This is not a good approach.”

The full report can be read here: