The Disabled Children’s Partnership – a coalition of more than 80 charities – have written an open letter to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and Education Recovery Commissioner, Sir Kevan Collins, asking them to implement a dedicated Covid-19 recovery plan for disabled children and their families.
The letter said that as the country comes out of the lockdown, the Government has the crucial opportunity to implement policies that will help disabled children and their families recover from "this terrible year".
It said that in a survey of 600 families, it learnt that 70% could not access, or experienced delays in receiving, life-changing therapies and routine health appointments that they had before the pandemic and said that the potential impact on disabled children’s long-term development from this delay is catastrophic.
Over 50% of parents also reported that their child’s condition had worsened due to the impacts of the pandemic.
Support for burnt out families suffering from poor mental health and social isolation
The letter added that the catastrophic impact of the pandemic has not been limited to physical harm. "Our latest findings show that half of disabled children are severely socially isolated, having not seen a single friend online or offline within the last month. The links between poor mental health and social isolation are well known and highlighted in our findings.
"Two in five parents reported that their child has lost confidence interacting with even familiar people, like friends, family and carers. All the while, parents continue to suffer themselves with 79% scoring a low level of wellbeing associated with poor mental health."
The charity coalition said that although it welcomed the government’s recent announcement of an education catch-up plan, it was gravely concerned that this plan does not address all the impacts of the pandemic on disabled children and their families.
"We need a holistic Covid-19 recovery plan that provides support for burnt out families suffering from poor mental health and social isolation," it added. "And makes up for the absence of therapies which has impacted on their physical development and opportunities to develop vital life skills. We believe this recovery strategy should include: a therapies catch-up plan; additional respite care for families; flexibility to extend or allow repeat funding for young people in further education; and additional support for children and young people at key transition points, such as when leaving further education."