Lockdown is impacting heavily on SEND families

The impact of lockdown on children and young people with learning difficulties has been hugely unsettling. While a minority of SEND families have found lockdown a beneficial retreat from the stresses and strains of everyday life, most are finding behaviour management, homeschooling and other aspects of lockdown a major challenge.

Financial pressures from loss of income, pressures of work, and a lack of respite from a persistent highly intense environment are all taking their toll. Even small things like accessing shopping slots online have become difficult, adding to an already stressful situation. A recent report in the Guardian highlights how parents of disabled children are buckling, being left to care 24/7 for their child’s complex needs without any of the support they usually receive.

A Sussex-based charity has conducted a survey to uncover the real impact of the Coronavirus lockdown on SEND families.

Reaching Families, a charitable organisation set up to inform and support parents and families of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities in West Sussex, surveyed 415 parent-carers of children with a wide spectrum of needs.

Responses indicate that the current situation is taking a heavy toll on families caring for a child or young person with learning disabilities. Two thirds of respondents reported that they are suffering from significant mental exhaustion as a direct result of circumstances brought about by the pandemic and 51% are feeling physically exhausted. Almost half are struggling to sleep.

Many are finding it difficult to cope. It is an experience echoed by some of our own Members.

“We are strong, stronger than people who don’t experience our lives. We have better coping mechanisms. But after all of this I have no idea how we as parent-carers will be…”

Here’s a summary of the key takeaways and recommendations from the Reaching Families Report. 

Key Findings

  • 48% of families have lost income since the lockdown
  • 43% of children with SEND are having significant problems with mental health
  • 65% of parent-carers described themselves as suffering from significant mental exhaustion and 51% say they are physically exhausted
  • 51% of parents say they have had a significant increase in anxiety and/or depression
  • 67% of parents said they are having significant struggles with homeschooling their children
  • 34% of families say they are receiving support from their child’s school
  • Of those families who usually have paid carers, 12% are still receiving support
  • 47% of children who were due medical appointments have missed these as a result of being in self-isolation.
  • 67% of families are having significant problems with online deliveries, click and collect and accessing vulnerable time slots
  • 90% of parents think the government should classify SEND families as a vulnerable group
  • 69% of parents said their child did not meet the government definition of clinically vulnerable

“I am exhausted and feel like I have nothing left to give. Our family feels like it’s falling apart to be honest.”

Report recommendations

Classify families of children with SEND as a vulnerable group

Parent-carers overwhelmingly agree that the government should classify families of children with SEND as a vulnerable group (90% answered in the affirmative to this question). Many parents in the survey said they felt abandoned or forgotten by the government.

Increase investment in mental health support

There is an urgent need  for increased funding for mental health services to support the mental well-being of families with SEND. Parents emphasised the need for mental health support for both children and parents.

Provide additional support to transition SEND children back to school

There is a pressing need for support in transitioning children back to school.

“I think my biggest challenge is when we come out of lockdown as my eldest son will have collapsed his “safe zone” entirely into this house. Stretching that once we are out is likely to be challenging for some time.”

Increase DLA payments

Financial stability for SEND families needs to be addressed. This could easily be done through increased DLA payments during the pandemic.

Read the full Reaching Families Report here.


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