Families with a disabled adult or child are a priority group for tackling child poverty in Scotland, as evidence suggests that they are more likely to be in poverty.
This paper presents the latest data on the child poverty targets and includes further evidence on the drivers of child poverty amongst this priority group. To provide a richer picture of the lived and living experience of these families and to begin to fill some key data gaps, existing evidence identified was complemented with qualitative interviews with parents in this priority group. The interview data helped us begin to better understand some key evidence gaps (with particularly rich findings around employment, childcare and financial support) as well as supporting findings in existing evidence (around barriers to employment, the importance of flexible work, school support for disabled pupils, living costs, and social security). Findings around transport and adult education were more limited. Details on the methods can be found in Annex A.
To keep the report simple, we refer to low-income households with children and at least one disabled member, either adult and/or child as 'low-income disabled families'. By low-income, we mean families who fall into the bottom three deciles of annual household income.
What does 'disabled' mean?
Being disabled is defined in the Equality Act 2010 as having:
'a long-term limiting mental or physical health condition, that has a substantial negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities that has lasted, or is expected to last, more than 12 months. The key elements of this definition are that there is a long-lasting health condition and that this condition limits daily activity'.
This two-stage definition is used in most large-scale surveys in Scotland. The first part of the question asks participants if they have a long-term illness or health condition that is expected to last more than 12 months. Participants are then asked whether this condition limits their day to day activity, by 'a lot', 'a little', or not at all. The definition of disabled as having a long-term condition that limits daily activity either 'a lot' or 'a little' is used for the majority of the quantitative data included within this report. Where a different definition is used, this is noted.
However, not everyone who meets this definition of being disabled identifies themselves using this term. This includes some of our research participants.
This report adopts the social model of disability, which was developed by disabled people. Unlike the medical model, which sees an individual as disabled by their impairment, the social model views disability as caused by the barriers society creates, such as negative attitudes and inaccessible buildings, transport and communication. The aim, then, is to remove these barriers. However, as the social model is seldom used in the context of survey-based data collection, statistics using this definition are limited.
There is a wide variety of forms of impairment, and disabled people have very different experiences and encounter different barriers. This report therefore tries to distinguish between the experiences of people with different forms of impairment where possible.
Not all disabled people will have an official medical diagnosis for their impairment, and some may experience additional barriers from the fact that their impairments are 'invisible' and they are not therefore recognised by others as being disabled.
"I think everyone's looking at me because he looks like an average kid, not in a wheelchair, not acting strangely just looks like throwing himself on the floor and having a meltdown."
In many cases, data sources ask only if the respondent is disabled, and not whether they live with any other disabled adults or children. This can make it harder to identify disabled parents and parents of disabled children.