04/08/2005

More support needed for disabled families

More support is needed for the families of disabled people, according to new research from the University of Ulster.

Goretti Horgan, from the School of Policy Studies at Magee, found the difficulties faced by people with disabilities and their carers across Northern Ireland are being exacerbated by a lack of support services, feelings of isolation and a lack of knowledge of their rights.

The research, carried out on behalf of the Bogside and Brandywell Women’s Group in Derry and funded by the Big Lottery, revealed that households with one or more disabled members are more likely to be living in poverty and that not enough is being done to address the problems faced by people living with disabilities.

“Over half of households that contained one or more disabled people are living in poverty in Northern Ireland compared with only 29% of households who have no one with a disability,” said Ms Horgan.

“Research has indicated that parents of disabled children could face three times the costs of parents of non-disabled children. The Council for Disabled Children estimates that even if families receive the maximum benefit entitlement for their disabled child, benefit levels would need to be increased by between £30 and £80 per week, depending upon age and disability, in order to meet minimum essential costs.

"The present benefit system does not take account of the cumulative costs of having more than one disabled child in the family."

The research findings also revealed a severe lack of awareness among carers of their rights and entitlement to benefits.

“Most women received little or no help from Social Services, even those with more than one disabled child. Many had never been offered respite care and had to depend solely on family support," Ms Horgan continued.

“Not enough is being done to support families living with disability, the higher costs of living with a disability should be factored into any allowances paid and support services should be tailored to suit the individual needs of families,” she concluded.

(MB/SP)

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