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Disability and economic disadvantage: facing the facts
  1. Maggie Atkinson,
  2. Dawn Rees,
  3. Lisa Davis
  1. Children's Commissioner for England, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Maggie Atkinson, Children's Commissioner for England, Sanctuary Buildings, 20 Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BT, UK; maggie.atkinson{at}

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This in-depth article presents evidence and detailed reflection on the ill effects of inequalities on children's health and well-being. We have known about these issues for generations. Indeed Public Health work since the 19th century, and the drive behind the Post-war Welfare settlement creating the NHS, were informed by that knowledge. That we seem unable to close the gaps and right the wrongs is a continued concern.

Variations in health affect a child's whole-of-life-course outcomes. Variations become inequitable when children are denied fair access to the determinants of good health, including in services’ responsiveness.

This paper explores some of these issues through the lens of child rights given that poverty and inequality compound and are compounded by physical or learning disabilities.

Too many children in England do not have access to an adequate diet, a warm coat, new shoes or a quiet place to do their homework. That disability adds to the weight on a family's financial position is a stark reality.

In our research, one disabled young person told us; “I don't get a lot of money, although I do get DLA. Right now I've got no money for food.”1

This article reflects evidence from those affected; discusses inequality as a wider determinant of health outcomes in the children and families concerned; and presents some challenges.

The view of the Office of the Children's Commissioner (OCC) is that our society must make a firmer commitment to improve all children's life chances. The approach should be to protect children from hazards known to have a negative impact, and to actively provide positive experiences to enhance the child's and family's assets and resilience.

Children with disabilities present challenges to the health, education, social care and benefits systems, made more acute by the fact that they cannot level the playing field …

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  • Contributors This article is a team effort led by MA, Children's Commissioner for England, working with DR and LD throughout.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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