I’m not sure why I found the statistics so surprising but according to current research, 48% of people living in poverty are either disabled or living with a disabled person i.e. a child or spouse. The research was undertaken by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) but I read about it here following a news report on the radio:
Here are the included statistics:
- 28% of people in poverty are disabled, including 310,000 disabled children.
- A further 20% of people in poverty live in a household with a disabled person.
- A quarter of working-age disabled people are in ‘deep’ poverty, with an income below 50% of the median income, compared with 13% of working-age people without a disability.
- Low pay rates for disabled people are higher than those for non-disabled people, at 34% compared with 27%.
- Disabled people face higher costs than non-disabled people, with 18% of working-age disabled people unable to afford basic items because of their cost.
To not even be able to afford basic items is horrific. And whilst I cannot claim to have any tangible experience of living anywhere near poverty, I can understand the notion of struggling to find work because of having a disabled child.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is an organisation I studied frequently at university. It encompasses all the socialist tendencies I possess and I urge everyone reading this to look up http://www.jrf.org.uk and have a little read.
I won’t lie, so far in life, in terms of financials I have been a lucky lady (though I have spectacularly made up for this luck in other areas!) I have never gone without food, without being able to buy things I need, I have always been able to feed and clothe the children. To me, that means I’m one of the fortunate ones. We don’t have to weigh up what is the most important thing to buy with the last pound in my purse.
BUT, with a disabled child it can be incredibly challenging to find work that suits your lifestyle. Who can you leave your child with when you have to go to work? I know from when I have tried to return to traditional working hours, my immediate concern is who can look after Jude following school hours or during the holidays (a nightmare all on its own) and what can I do before work when I need to leave the house at 7.30am and he doesn’t get collected until 8.15am?
Recently we hired a nanny but financially it made no sense because I have never worked in a sector that pays very well (damn, stupid ambitions of mine). Childminders aren’t a possibility because they typically have several children to look after and Jude needs more personal support than most children, so what is left? There are no after school clubs at Jude’s school at present so consequently, there are no options for me! If there are no options for me when I have a degree, post-grad qualifications, a relative amount of intellect and work experience, how is a parent with no qualifications and perhaps a mild learning disability themselves going to cope? It is transparently obvious that they will not be able to return to work without in-house childcare or a very supportive relative.
Not particularly shocking but this piece of research by the JRF outlines how the provision of inexpensive childcare could reduce poverty in the UK https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/creating-anti-poverty-childcare-system
But just to make things that teeny bit more complicated…
Cheryl Ward, Chief Executive of Family Fund suggests: “We know that the cost of raising a disabled child can be up to three times more than that of a child without a disability, and these costs have a substantial ongoing impact on families’ lives and the opportunities available to them.”
Now following all this, I have been attempting to understand where my career could go one day, when I grow up. I have so many ideas of things I’d like to try but because of the above explanation, it isn’t always that simple. It was only a month or so ago I completed an online skills test to see which job would best suit my character. The prompt asked me to choose the three words, images or phrases that appealed the most or that suited my personality most closely so I clicked through each page, concentrating hard to ensure my answers were accurate. I waited with anticipation for my results, thinking I would be given a wonderfully purposive suggestion of employment that I could pursue with the vigour I am so capable of. But what did it propose for me? Chef. Literally, that one word.
Chef?!?! Now whilst there is nothing wrong with working as a chef and in fact, it can be a fabulously rewarding and transferable occupation, I think for me, someone who has previously set fire to spaghetti and only today set the oven gloves alight (shh don’t tell Joe), Chef is not something I will ever be titled.