'Do Siblings Matter Too?' reveals how thousands of siblings of disabled children, many of whom are providing significant care and emotional support to their brothers and sisters, are often overlooked as their needs come second to that of the disabled child.
There are around 800,000 disabled children in the UK, and Sibs - the charity for siblings of disabled children - estimates that they have over 500,000 siblings.
Key findings from the University of Portsmouth report, which is based upon data from over 2,000 assessment reports gathered by Family Fund - a grant-giving charity for families on low-incomes raising disabled or seriously-ill children and interviews with children - shows that:
- siblings are often overlooked and have their needs ignored by policy makers and service providers;
- siblings are not identified by local authorities and schools;
- few siblings are being supported by agencies such as Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) or Young Carer groups and it would be of benefit if this was more widely available.
The report also highlights the main issues faced by siblings of disabled children and the concerns of their parents.
Many siblings cited a lack of time available to them and other brothers and sisters as an issue, while some families said they felt guilty about not spending as much time with their non-disabled children.
Siblings also commonly mentioned sleep deprivation and the impact of this on their education.
Family Fund is now calling on policy makers to recognise the needs and challenges of siblings of disabled children and look at the services that require developing.
The charity's group chief executive Cheryl Ward said, 'Family Fund has supported siblings of disabled children through our Siblings Matter Too grant programme for over four years with almost 1,500 grants provided. But with over 500,000 siblings of disabled children in the UK, we have a long way to go to reach all those in need.
'This report shows just how important it is to recognise the vital role siblings play in the family, and in a lot of cases sharing the care of their brother or sister.'
Jenny Peddar, author of the report and senior lecturer at the School of Health Sciences and Social Work at the University of Portsmouth, said, 'This study confirmed expectations of the impact of having a sibling with a disability, but also raises a number of additional issues.
'Siblings experience a wide range of issues, and this study showed there is very limited support available to them. The complexity of life for these families needs wider recognition by services and the voice of the siblings needs to be heard by those working with the families.'