Fathers of disabled children feel that they aren't getting the support they need and are marginalised, a new survey has found.
The survey, by disability charities Scope and Netbuddy, found that dads are trying to do their best in caring for their child, but face pressures and barriers to doing this. For example, dads feel greater financial pressure as carers – the vast majority worry about money and many feel they are seen only as the breadwinner. The survey also highlighted a lack of understanding in the workplace, with many saying that they do not get support from colleagues or bosses. Indeed, 15% said their workplace does not even know they have a disabled child. Meanwhile, 4 in 10 do not fully understand their child's disability and a third are not confident in caring for their child. This pressure of caring for a disabled child can also put a strain on their relationship with their partner – two thirds said their relationship was suffering.
Dads also want more support, with 8 in 10 feeling alone but only about 40% get help from support groups or professionals. When asked how support could be improved for them, dads cited things like having appointments outside of working hours because it can be difficult to get time off. Better respite care provision and greater employer awareness about the issues parents of disabled children face were also mentioned.
Deborah Gundle, a mother and carer who founded netbuddy as a way to bring families and professionals together, said the results make for difficult reading. "We wanted to highlight the important role that dad carers have, but to realise the extent of the problems dads are facing has been overwhelming. Even I had not considered the extent of dads' involvement – both emotionally and practically – and it is commonly the case that mothers are assumed to take all the responsibilities of caring on board. "This survey is a real eye-opener and gives a truly inspirational account of how much dad carers do for their children. It is time that society opened its eyes and took action to give better support to fathers with disabled children. At the moment, they just aren't getting the help they need."
Richard Hawkes, chief executive of Scope, added: "Every day we hear from parents of disabled children as they struggle to juggle demands, from caring for their child to fighting to get the support they need. But we also hear heart-warming stories of parents overcoming challenges and starting to believe in the possibilities for their child. "Too often it's the mums at the centre of the story. That's why we set up a dad's support groups, which we're looking to expand. This survey shows that everyone involved in supporting families' needs look long and hard at what can be done to support dads to play a part in caring for their children. "If the Government is to meet its aims of creating a family-friendly society, keeping people in work, and improving support for families of disabled children, it needs to do more to promote the value of flexible working to support family relationships and family finances."