[AI] Strong link between child disability and poverty

Adhimoolam Vetrivel Murugan vadhimoolam at gmail.com
Tue Apr 20 15:41:50 EDT 2010

The article below is written largely in the context of UK. I am sure
that the situation is similar in India as well.


Date:21/04/2010 URL:

Strong link between child disability and poverty

Randeep Ramesh

Wealthy families in Britain are a third less likely to have a disabled
child, a statistic that reveals an alarming social gradient because
poorer families unlucky enough to have such children are pushed
further into poverty by the pressures of caring for them, according to

Despite 15 years of legislation attempting to ease the burden on
affected families, the highest prevalence of childhood disability is
found in poorest families, academics at Warwick University found.

Extra costs

In the paper, published in the journal BMC Pediatrics, researchers
found that households with a disabled child were £50-a-week worse off
than those without. This is despite the fact that the extra costs of
bringing up a disabled child means families need an extra 18 per cent
in income. Nationally, this amounts to a heavy burden on the 950,000
families identified in the paper as having disabled children.

“We think the official [figures] underestimates the actual numbers by
250,000 ... and the huge inequalities that the paper clearly shows
that is of some concern,” said Clare Blackburn of Warwick University's
school of health and social studies. Disability appears to be not
simply an accident of birth, she said, but a confluence of
“intergenerational poverty” and modern medical progress.

Ms Blackburn said the exact extent to which “factors such as low
income precede or follow disability is difficult to tell, but what we
know is that poor diet and stressful living conditions do increase the
chances of premature birth and low birth weight, which are indicators
of future disability. Thanks to science, these babies live longer and
medicine now keeps alive disabled children who may have died 10, 20
years ago.”

The Warwick researchers point out that debt was more common in those
families with disabled children: the parents were unable to keep up
with any local property taxes, water and telephone bills, and were not
likely to be able to afford basic items such as a family holiday once
a year, a bicycle, or even two pairs of shoes. “It is a serious social
gradient disabled families face,” said Ms Blackburn. “A disabled baby
needs more nappies. Families' ability to work grows difficult, and
finding childcare is a real burden. Households with disabled children
will depend more on social security benefits and are faced with the
additional financial costs associated with caring for a disabled

Struggling to survive

Doctors said that Andrew Lomax's seven-year-old daughter Emily would
not make it “out of hospital” aged two weeks. Born healthy, she
stopped breathing as a tiny baby and those 20 minutes without oxygen
left her with a severe form of cerebral palsy. She was registered
blind, unable to swallow, walk and breathe without an aspirator, so
her two parents gave up their jobs to look after her and their two
other children.

“Our income is £15,000 a year — about a third of what it was before,”
said Andrew. “It's all [social] benefits, and I am a proud man who
does not like to say it but family holidays come from the kindness of
charities.” Andrew says that he cannot afford to buy his elder son the
Nintendo he craves. He is left scouring local papers for presents. His
income is eaten up by fuel and petrol bills. “We have to keep the
house very warm for Emily, who is susceptible to pneumonia and the
cost of running the specially designed car is prohibitive. It only
does six kilometres per litre. Most months we are hit by bank charges
and missed payments. I try to juggle, but it is robbing Peter to pay
Paul.” — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

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