The charity Guide Dogs is calling on the Chancellor of the Exchequer, ahead of the upcoming Spring Budget, to increase support by £15 per month for families with disabled children who are eligible to claim Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit, amid the ongoing cost of living crisis.
The move has been backed by six other charities and over 20 political figures as representatives from Guide Dogs handed in an open letter to No 11 Downing Street, calling on the Chancellor to take action to support families with disabled children.
The open letter, which has been signed by 2,653 members of the public comes as Guide Dogs publishes a new report, Out of Pocket: How the cost of living crisis is impacting families with a vision impaired child. The new research which shows that the cost of living crisis is having a disproportionate impact on families with vision impaired children.
The new research reveals that parents and guardians of vision impaired children are more worried about being able to pay their energy and utility bills and cover the cost of fuel compared with families with non-disabled children.
The cost of living crisis is well documented, with families across the country facing increased energy and food bills. Today’s research has uncovered that families of vision impaired children have additional costs to meet the needs of their children, which other families do not face. While most families access disability related benefits, only a fifth (22%) say these benefits are sufficient to cover the extra costs incurred. As a result, parents’ mental health is suffering as they are forced to make difficult decisions.
The survey revealed that families of vision impaired children have to pay greater energy and fuel costs relating to their child’s disability. From an energy perspective, families keep the lights on make homes as accessible as possible for their child. Additionally, children with complex needs can require vital medical equipment running through the day and night. From a fuel perspective, families of vision impaired children are more dependent on their cars due to needing to travel further to attend school and more frequent medical appointments.
One parent of a child with visual impairment noted, “We have to keep lights on longer in the winter so he can see the stairs and the hallway and the heating on as his muscles hurt more in the winter so he can’t get cold.”
Another parent commented, “My son is unable to regulate his temperature so in the winter we have to have the heating on more and in the summer the fans are used more. Also due to him having chorioretinopathy the lights are kept on more in the winter even in the day when it’s overcast as he struggles to see. I think the approximate cost per year would be an extra £400.”
The evidence is clear – families with a vision impaired child face many additional ‘hidden’ costs to meet their child’s needs and the cost of living crisis is only exacerbating the impact on family budgets.
Helen Honstvet, Senior Policy, Public Affairs and Campaigns Manager at Guide Dogs, said: “The Government needs to take the opportunity of the Budget to provide more targeted support to families with vision impaired and disabled children. Families are experiencing significant hardship today, with many having to make tough decisions about where to save money. Many of the additional financial costs that families are facing come from systems that are not supporting and including children with a vision impairment in the way they should.”
Children and young people with vision impairment tell us they want to grow up enjoying the same opportunities as their classmates. But all too often, they are being let down by the education system that fails to give them the support they need.
New research released by Guide Dogs has revealed that two in three primary and secondary school teachers lack confidence in teaching children with a vision impairment.