- Visits to Scope’s family-support services’ web pages skyrocketed by 79 per cent, as charity income plummeted during pandemic
- Scope needs to a raise quarter of a million pounds to boost funds for vital family services over winter months
- Families with disabled children feel stressed, anxious and forgotten during the pandemic
Families of disabled children have been pushed to breaking point during a year of lockdowns, with more anxious and stressed parents turning to disability equality charity Scope for essential advice and support. Scope now needs urgent funding to support vital family services over the winter months, after the disastrous impact of Coronavirus on its finances.
Demand for the charity’s family support services increased, as 79 per cent more parents accessed the charity’s website for information and advice this year and referrals to support services increased by 18 per cent during 2020. This comes at a time when Scope’s profits from retail, fundraising and donations dipped due to the ongoing pandemic.
Scope’s important services for families, include:
- Navigate - Emotional support for parents and carers of disabled children
- Parents Connect - Bringing parents of disabled children together
- Sleep Right - A service to improve sleep for disabled children
In the first five months of the pandemic (March 1 to July 31), Parents Connect reached 261 new people via the service - more than it would normally see in a whole year. Demand for Parents Connect is so high that Scope has expanded the programme to be available nationally, online. The new, online service is now tailored to meet the specific needs of the parents of disabled children in the current climate, focusing on building resilience, reducing isolation and building a peer support network.
Melanie Duddridge from Cardiff is disabled, and her daughter Morgan is on a pathway to a suspected autism diagnosis. Because of Morgan’s additional needs, lockdown and home-schooling was a huge challenge for the family. But when schools reopened in September, Melanie, who is in a high-risk category, had to then balance the risk of contracting coronavirus and sending her 9-year-old back to school.
The unimaginable strain of the dilemma on Melanie’s mental health meant she turned to Scope’s Parent’s Connect service looking for solace. She met other families who could understand what she was going through and found a ‘safe place’ with parents who understood her situation. She was also able to depend on the Navigate service, for advice about supporting her daughter during lockdown. Morgan is back at school, but Melanie is now having to socially distance from her in their own home.
She said: “My immediate concern was if I caught the virus. What is better for my child’s wellbeing – missing education or not having a mother?”
“I needed to find a place I could relate to someone. Just seeing other parents faces on the screen, knowing we have something in common, aside from the pandemic."
Louise Gillard, Team Leader of Parents Connect at Scope, said: “The Coronavirus crisis is having a disproportionate impact on the wellbeing of families with disabled children. Families have told me they are feeling left behind, lonely and overwhelmed with anxiety. The risk of more winter lockdowns and tier restrictions means the pressure on parents won’t be easing any time soon.
“During the first lockdown, Scope’s Parents Connect service supported six times more families than usual. Every day, mums and dads got in touch, saying they have nowhere else to turn- they are at breaking point.
“We have seen lots of regression in disabled children’s sleep and our referral rates reflect this. We have been dealing with multiple crisis calls from parents around children’s increasingly challenging behaviour, particularly for those with sensory or Autism spectrum disorder-type conditions. The impact of lockdown has seen their behaviour regress as their impairment means they simply cannot process what is happening, so are reverting to behaviours they may have exhibited when much younger.
“It’s vital that families have somewhere to turn. Funding for our family services has never been so important and Scope is urging the public to dig deep and help raise the funds that allow us to keep being there for those who need us.”
Findings from the Disabled Children’s Partnership #Leftinlockdown survey this June, found more than 70 per cent of parents they and their children had been affected by mental health issues this year, and 76 per cent said all levels of care and support has stopped during lockdown.
With over one million disabled children in the UK, Scope is urging people to help raise the £237, 370 that funds these family services over the Christmas period, so parents have access to crucial advice and support.
Scope has prioritised keeping its vital services running remotely during these tough times. However, the pandemic has impacted the charity’s ability to fundraise, which means it’s more important than ever that Scope has the public’s support so it can continue to be there for disabled families now and in the future.