Child Poverty: Disability


Disability is broadly considered as a contributing factor to poverty.  Disabled people experience poorer outcomes in education and employment, areas which impact significantly upon poverty.  

Recent changes to welfare appear to have disproportionately affected disabled people.  In particular, the “bedroom tax” and universal credit have been continually highlighted as overly impacting disabled people.  Subsequently, this section should be viewed in conjunction with:

Disabled people, like all people discussed within this review, possess numerous personal characteristics.  We would therefore suggest viewing this section in conjunction with:


Key Facts and Figures: Glasgow and Scotland

Glasgow reports slightly higher levels (than the national average), of people whose day-to-day activities are limited due to health problems or disability:

  • Inverclyde - 23.7%
  • West Dumbartonshire - 23.1%
  • Glasgow - 22.7%
  • North Ayrshire - 22.6%
  • Aberdeen - 16.0%
  • Edinburgh - 16.1%
  • Scottish Average - 19.6%

    Source: National Records for Scotland. 2013. 2011 Census results.

    In 2011/2012, 19% of households containing a disabled adult lived in poverty.  The figure for households with no disabled adults was 12%.

    Source: Scottish Government. 2013. Income and Poverty


    Geographic Disparity

    People who stated they had a long term, activity limiting health problem or disability were more likely to live in Scotland’s most deprived areas.

    26.7% of people who reported either being limited a little, or lot, lived in Scotland’s 15% most deprived areas.

    Whilst 18.4% of these groups lived in Scotland’s 85% least deprived areas.

    People residing in the countries most deprived decile are twice as likely (26%) to report that they were limited by a long term health problem or disability, than those in the least deprived areas (13%).

    Source: Scottish Government. 2014. Overview of Equality Results in 2011 Census.



    In 2012, 45.6% of disabled people were in employment within Scotland, compared to 70.6% of non-disabled people.

    In Glasgow, the employment figure for disabled people drops to 33.5%, compared to 59.7% of non-disabled people.

    It should be noted that in 2013, the Glasgow employment rate for non-disabled people rose to 63.3%. There is currently no data available for disabled employment rates in 2013.

    Source: Annual Population Survey. 2013. Local Area Labour Market Statistics 2004-2013.



    The Department for Work and Pensions present findings in regards to educational attainment of disabled people within the UK:

    • Disabled people are three times as likely (19.2%) than non disabled people (6.2%) to hold no qualifications.
    • 14.9% of disabled people hold degree qualifications, in comparison to 28.1% of the non-disabled population. 

      Source: DWP. 2014. Disability Facts and Figures


      Rising Cost of Living

      Research has continually highlighted the increased financial pressures upon families with disabled children. Increasing costs for specialist equipment, in conjunction with reduced welfare support have been documented as having a negative impact upon family finances.

      Contact a Family (2012), the highlighted costs of living for disabled families. They specifically refer to increased prices for:

      • Specialist clothes
      • Specialist leisure activities
      • Specialist toys
      • Specialist equipment 
      • Computer equipment 

        Source: Contact a Family. 2012. Increased Costs of Living.

        Further research demonstrates the increasing impact of:

        • Rising utility bills
        • Increased transport costs
        • Below inflation pay increases
        • Welfare reform

        From this, economic costs have the capacity to impact disabled people through two mediums.

        For example, if a child is disabled, parents face additional financial pressures due to the increased costs associated with day-to-day living and specialist equipment.  Such expenditure may have a significant impact upon family budgets and act as a more subtle form of poverty.

        In this regard, although parents of disabled children may earn slightly more than the 60% threshold, outgoings will be higher, due price of specialist equipment and increase in day to day expenditure.

        Alternatively, if a parent is disabled and doesn’t have secure, well paid employment, there is a significant chance that this may result in lower earning levels than non-disabled people.

        Approximately 46.3% of disabled people are in employment within Scotland and 33.5% in Glasgow, suggesting reduced levels of income and a higher risk of poverty.

        Research from the Scottish Government reinforces this suggestion, highlighting that disabled people are significantly more likely to live in both poverty, and in Scotland’s poorest areas.

        Therefore, it could be argued that disabled children, and children of disabled parents face increased risks of experiencing poverty.  Welfare changes, the marginalised position of disabled people within the labour market and more broadly speaking, higher costs of living, may all contribute to increased levels of poverty.


        A Human Rights Based Approach

        The Children’s Commission (2013) provide a rights based analysis of disabled children's and young people's experiences of living within low income families.

        Within this, they highlight the impact low income has upon their rights as set out within:

        The research highlights the direct impact low income has upon their rights as children, people and disabled people.  This is not to say that low income always equates to reduced rights.  Rather, it is a contributing factor, alongside inadequate provision of services, a lack of understanding from service providers and broader structural and institutional inequalities (to name a few).

        Adopting a rights based approach provides an interesting perspective to the experience of poverty, particularly amongst disabled people.  Research demonstrates that poverty, for all people, has the capacity to impact upon their most basic human rights.  In this regard, the institutional and structural inequality experienced by disabled people could be presented as enhancing the consequences of poverty.

        Yet, generally, discussions surrounding human rights occur “after the fact”, or are viewed as an additional piece of work.  Embedding human rights considerations within projects, strategies and policies may allow for innovative and more informed approaches to be adopted.  This research offers an insight into the value of such an approach.

        Source: Children’s Commission. 2013. We want to help people see things our way: A rights-based analysis of disabled children’s experience living in low income.