For many families caring for disabled children there is already financial and emotional pressure, however the coronavirus pandemic is causing additional difficulties. Many people have had their income reduced during periods of furlough, and many have also lost their jobs. This can make caring for a child, or adult, with additional needs, incredibly challenging.

The BBC interviewed Gail Bedding, whose son Fergus is severely disabled and who is completely dependent on his family for care. Unfortunately both Gail and her husband both found themselves without an income as a result of the pandemic and had to find alternative work. This left them with additional challenges of how best to look after Fergus, and involved the whole family rallying together to make sure that he was adequately cared for. She said, "We have to work out who is home, so he's not left on his own. We have to make sure one of us is in the house with him. It's a real juggling act for us".

The Department for Education in England has now confirmed that an additional £10m will be allocated for extra assistance during the pandemic for parents of disabled children. However James Taylor, executive director of the disability charity, Scope has advised that aside from the financial difficulties they face, "many families of disabled children are telling us they feel forgotten amid the crisis"…"Parents are juggling working from home with childcare and home-schooling, often without the right equipment or resources,"…"Many have lost the respite care they usually get through relatives or other services".

Many children with disabilities also have other health difficulties and may be shielding for a number of reasons. This makes it even less likely that they can go outside which can result in additional behavioural issues which can cause challenges for the rest of the family.

For many families who have kept their jobs, there are still challenges as working from home is particularly difficult when simultaneously caring for a disabled child. With travel restrictions in place during the lockdown, many parents of disabled children have not had any access to schools, additional support from friends, relations or local charities offering respite.

There are also concerns that those local charities, which are a vital lifeline to many families, might struggle to keep going in the economic climate caused by the coronavirus. Fundraising events are currently not able to go ahead due to social distancing restrictions, businesses which charities rely on for support no longer have the money to help, and those individuals who financially support their services are also unable to assist. It is vital to continue to support wherever possible so that the services offered can be adapted during the pandemic, and so their support can continue in future.

At Freeths we understand the difficulties many parents of disabled children face. Our Freeths Derby office is a proud corporate sponsor of local disability charity, Umbrella. Umbrella supports the families of children and young people between the ages of 5 and 30 with any special need, including: learning and behavioural issues, physical, sensory and other complex additional needs. Since being Umbrella’s corporate sponsor this year we have volunteered our time, our skills and raised funds to support them, and will continue to support them wherever possible during this difficult time.

Many children with additional needs also require ongoing support in the form of therapies. Many NHS services and procedures were initially halted during the lockdown, and although many routine appointments have now been rearranged, there will be inevitably be a backlog of patients. Delays in treatment and therapies can cause additional difficulties for patients with complex additional needs, and there are concerns that those who have missed therapies will “regress” even further.

We know only too well the importance of being able to access the NHS services you need at this difficult time. Which is why it is important that if you or a loved one have new or worsening symptoms we would suggest contacting your GP in the first instance. Should you have concerns that a condition has been missed or there has been a delay in treatment during the Covid19 pandemic then we may be able to assist you.

Although we are, for the time being, not able to meet clients in person, our specialist clinical negligence team at Freeths is here to support and advise clients. We are available for meetings and consultations via telephone, email, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Skype and any other digital platform that works for you.

Please contact our team:

Karen Reynolds, Partner (Derby/Stoke/Birmingham): 0845 272 5677 or karen.reynolds@freeths.co.uk

Carolyn Lowe, Partner (Oxford/Milton Keynes) on 0186 578 1019 or carolyn.lowe@freeths.co.uk

 Jane Williams, Partner (Leicester/Nottingham) on 0845 272 5724 or jane.williams@freeths.co.uk