Aims To determine impact of austerity on families with disabled children across Europe.
Methods Cross-sectional electronic surveys in 25 languages disseminated via professional and family networks in 32 European countries December 2016 – February 2017.
Country comparison groups: United Kingdom (UK); countries where>50% professionals and families reported austerity cuts; remaining countries.
United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) indicators of severe poverty in rich and middle-income countries were integrated into the families’ questionnaire: those reporting ≥four poverty indicators met severe poverty criteria.
Level of dependency of disabled child accounted for in analysis, using IBM SPSS Statistics, v23.
Results Responses received: 959 professionals (32 countries); 731 families (23 countries).
Family respondents: 29% (215/731) UK; 28% (275/731) other countries reporting austerity cuts; 33% (241/731) remaining countries.
45% (332/731) met UNICEF severe poverty criteria.
More UK families reported worsening quality of services compared to three years ago (112/215; 52.1%), than families not in poverty with completely dependent disabled children from remaining countries (14/69; 20%) (p<0.001, χ2=57.1).
More UK families in poverty with completely dependent disabled children reported access more difficult than three years ago than any other respondent groups to: therapies (85%, 33/39); support in education (67%, 26/39); social care support (85%, 33/39); welfare support and benefits (79%, 31/39). Significantly fewer respondents from remaining countries reported more difficult access to services (p<0.001 for all).
Families and professionals from remaining countries generally perceived health, education and social care needs were better addressed than 10 years ago, whilst most of all other comparison groups reported needs in all areas to be less well met (p<0.001). UK families in severe poverty with completely dependent disabled children reported the greatest decline in how health, education and social care needs were met, compared to 10 years ago.
Conclusion Professional and family respondents across Europe experiencing austerity cuts reported a significant decline in quality of services received in the last three years and in how well health, educational and social care needs had been met over the last decade, compared to respondents from countries experiencing no austerity measures.
UK responses were significantly worse than from other countries. UK families with the most dependent disabled children living in poverty generally reported the worst experiences overall.
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