Annex A: Research Methods
The findings presented in this paper are based on a mixed-methods research project, consisting of a rapid evidence review and qualitative, semi-structured interviews with parents from families with a disabled member.
The rapid evidence review was conducted first, to establish what we already knew about this priority group, including the causes of a higher poverty rate and barriers families living with someone with a disability face to reducing their living costs and increasing income from employment and social security. The key findings from the evidence review were used to inform an interview guide, designed both to further explore key barriers identified for this group and to fill some of the key gaps in evidence that were identified. These evidence gaps included:
- experiences of, and barriers to, employment, education and accessing support for parents of disabled children and partners of disabled adults (much existing evidence focuses on adults who are themselves disabled)
- whether parents wanted to be in paid work, and if so, what would support them in this
- experiences and opinions of childcare for these families
- experiences and opinions of transport for these families
- awareness and opinions of financial support available.
We conducted interviews with 12 parents from families where they, another adult, and/or a child was disabled. It is important to note, though, that while each fitted the description of being disabled set out in the introduction to this report and as used to define this priority group, not everyone used this description themselves.
Participants had previously taken part in the Scottish Health Survey, and given permission to be re-contacted to be invited to take part in further research. They were sampled based on having been (at the time of taking part in the survey) in the bottom 3 income deciles and their household including at least one dependent child and at least one person with a long-term, limiting illness. Interviews were conducted over the phone or video call.
Our 12 interviewees included nine women and three men, three in a rural location, five single parents, and a mix of participants who were disabled or had limiting illnesses themselves, or with a partner or child or was ill or disabled. The children in these families were all of school age (between 7 and 17 years old).
The interview data helped us begin to better understand the key evidence gaps set out above, with particularly rich findings around employment, childcare and financial support. In addition, interviews supported findings in existing evidence around barriers to employment common to parents overall, the importance of flexible work, issues with support at school for some disabled pupils, additional and widely varying costs of living for disabled people, and experiences of social security.
The interviews helped us better understand the experiences of families with a disabled member particularly in terms of:
- childcare (in particular, many parents' strong reluctance to use formal childcare)
- the challenges for parents in rural areas, including around childcare and transport
- difficulties with healthcare and the knock-on effects of this in participants' lives (we did not include this as part of our interview guide, but many participants brought this up)
- experiences of locally provided support, particularly free school meals.
Findings around transport and adult education were more limited, although it was interesting that transport did not emerge as a specific barrier to work, as it did in the evidence review.
These qualitative, semi-structured interviews allowed us to explore complex areas and gain an in-depth understanding of our participants' experiences, views, choices and behaviours. However, this was a small piece of research and findings cannot be generalised to the wider population. Findings from these interviews are integrated throughout the report, including with quotes and case studies (where names and some details have been changed). Notes were taken during interviews but they were not recorded, therefore quotes are not necessarily verbatim.