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Dev Med Child Neurol. 2019 Mar;61(3):329-336. doi: 10.1111/dmcn.13978. Epub 2018 Jul 20.

Austerity and families with disabled children: a European survey.

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Paediatric Department, City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, Sunderland, UK.
Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing, University of Sunderland, Sunderland, UK.
Parent Carer Representative, General Management Committee, European Academy of Childhood Disability, Fondation Paralysie Cérébrale, Paris, France.
Community Paediatric Department, European Academy of Childhood Disability, Leeds, UK.
Department of Physiotherapy, University of Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain.
Department of Paediatric Neuroscience, University of Pisa-Stella Maris Scientific Institute, Pisa, Italy.
International Clinic of Rehabilitation, Truskavets, Ukraine.



To describe the impact austerity measures have had on families with disabled children across Europe and on professionals providing services for them.


Cross-sectional surveys were disseminated via professional and family networks in 32 European countries for 3 months from December 2016.


Families (n=731), of whom 45% met UNICEF criteria for severe poverty, and professionals (n=959) responded from 23 and 32 countries respectively. Respondents were grouped into those from countries with and without austerity. The direct and indirect impact of austerity cuts and worse working conditions were reported more often by professionals from countries with austerity, compared to those without. Most families reported services to be worse in quality than 3 years ago. Families with completely dependent disabled children said the needs of their disabled children are significantly less well met now, compared to 10 years ago.


A decline in quality of services for disabled children was reported by most family and many professional respondents across Europe, regardless of austerity. Where implemented, austerity measures were reported to have impacted significantly on families with disabled children. What this paper adds Stigma about disability remains a challenge in many countries across Europe. Most families and many health care professionals reported worsening quality of services than 3 years ago, regardless of austerity. Austerity cuts are reported to have impacted especially negatively on families with dependent disabled children.


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