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Helter Skelter: Families, disabled children and the benefit system
Gabrielle Preston
February 2005
Paper No' CASE 092:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: I38

Tags: appeals; benefits; disability; employment; extra costs; poverty; services; social exclusion; special needs; social inclusion; take-up; welfare rights

Families with disabled children are susceptible to poverty because low income is compounded by high costs. Combing caring with employment is extremely difficult, so families are heavily reliant upon benefits. But do disability benefits provide financial security for families who are susceptible to high levels of poverty and social exclusion? This qualitative study, based on semi-structured interviews with 20 families who have a disabled child or children, investigates their experience of applying for disability living allowance (DLA) and how they use additional benefit income. Families report that DLA makes a significant difference, not just for the disabled child but for the whole family. However, the fact that DLA is repeatedly downrated or withdrawn generates considerable fluctuations in income and high levels of stress and ill health. The report outlines issues that must be addressed if reduce poverty amongst disabled children is to be reduced.