Publication - Research and analysis

Tackling child poverty - third year progress report : annex B - child poverty in families with a disabled adult or child

Evidence about child poverty in families with a disabled adult or child. The report presents the latest data on the child poverty targets and includes further evidence on the drivers of child poverty among this priority group.

Tackling child poverty - third year progress report : annex B - child poverty in families with a disabled adult or child
Child Poverty Rates in Families with a Disabled Adult or Child

Child Poverty Rates in Families with a Disabled Adult or Child

Families with a disabled member are more likely to be in poverty than those without.

The relative poverty rate for children in households with a disabled child was 27%, compared to 30% for households with a disabled adult, and it has been consistently higher among the latter.[16] This indicates that having a disabled adult in the family has a greater impact on whether or not the family is in poverty, although both are important. In almost half (49%) of families in relative poverty with a disabled adult, the disabled adult had a mental health problem. Details of latest poverty rates can be found in Table 1 below.

Table 1: Estimates of number and rates of child poverty among families with a disabled person in the household. Three year averages, 2017-2020.
Household group Relative poverty Absolute poverty Low income and material deprivation Persistent poverty[17]
All children 240,000 210,000 120,000 --
(24%) (22%) (13%) (16%)
Disabled person in the household 100,000 90,000 70,000 --
(29%) (26%) (20%) (14%)

Trend data over the past decade shows that this heightened risk of poverty among disabled families is a longstanding issue.

Graph 2: Percentage of children in relative poverty after housing costs [18]
Line graph showing the percentage of children in relative poverty after housing costs over time, for all children and those in households with a disabled person

Source: Family Resources Survey

Graph 3: Percentage of children from each group in absolute poverty after housing costs
Line graph showing the percentage of children in absolute poverty after housing costs over time, for all children and those in households with a disabled person
Graph 4: Percentage of children from each group in combined low income and material deprivation
Line graph showing the percentage of children in combined low income and material deprivation over time, for all children and those in households with a disabled person

Source: Family Resources Survey[19] Source: Family Resources Survey

We do not have persistent poverty data for disabled children, but Graph 5 shows persistent poverty over time for children with a disabled adult in their family.

Graph 5: Percentage of children from each group in persistent poverty
Line graph showing the percentage of children in persistent poverty over time, for all children and those in families with a disabled adult

Source: Family Resources Survey

These measures of poverty do not account for the additional living costs that disabled people often incur (see section 2.2). One way to try and partly account for this is to exclude from total household income the benefits paid as a contribution towards these additional living costs.[20] We are then able to compare households with and without a disabled member on a more like-for-like basis. With these disability benefits removed from household income, the proportion of children in households with a disabled person who are in poverty rises sharply, as Table 2 shows.[21]

Table 2: Relative poverty rates for children in households with at least one disabled person, by whether or not disability benefits are included in the household income, 2017-20
Household composition Relative poverty rate with disability benefits included in household income Relative poverty rate with disability benefits removed from household income
Households with a disabled person (adult or child) 29% 34%
Households with disabled child(ren) 27% 31%
Households with disabled adult(s) 30% 36%

Source: Scottish Government analysis of the Family Resources Survey


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