THE number of disabled children in the UK is set to nearly double by 2029 as a result of childhood obesity, increases in pre-term birth survival rates and persistent childhood poverty, according to new research.

Disability campaigners and families with disabled children have expressed concern at the findings, fearing current provision in Scotland is inadequate and ill prepared for any increase in demand.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) report - Opportunities For The Full And Equal Citizenship Of Disabled People In Britain - suggests the number of disabled children will rise to 1.25 million in 2029 from the current level of around 700,000. Revealing a "two-way relationship" between poverty and disability among Britain's children, the report also found that 29% of households with one or more disabled children live in poverty compared with 21% of those with no disabled children.

It also found a significant increase in the prevalence of mental health problems, autistic spectrum disorders, and emotional and behavioural disorders.

Kate Stanley, associate director of the IPPR, said people with mental health problems and complex disabilities are "likely to suffer discrimination and exclusion from full citizenship". She also pointed to worrying links between childhood obesity and disability.

"There needs to be a transformation in the quality and accessibility of services for disabled children, young people and their families," she said.

The research also claims that by 2020, the majority of people in their 50s will be disabled or will self-report long-term health problems, and that too many families are still not claiming their entitlement to Disability Living Allowance.

The Disability Rights Commission (DRC) said the issues raised by the IPPR study add to the anecdotal evidence it has received of the "patchy provision" of support across Scotland.

A DRC Scotland spokesperson said: "The harsh reality is that if you are disabled in Scotland today you are twice as likely to live in poverty, be unemployed and have low skills.

"With a rapidly ageing population, we need to harness the skills of our whole community and not consign disabled people to being passive recipients of care. Inefficiencies and needless amounts of money wasted on red tape could go back into the system to help lift more of these families out of poverty."

Fiona Sinclair, whose 10-year-old son Gregor has autism, has spent years fighting for her son to receive the support and education he deserves. Gregor was placed in a mainstream primary school despite his parents' requests for him to attend a special school.

Sinclair hit out at the shoddy service provided and pointed to the regressive legislation being passed by the Scottish parliament. She said: "My son's life would be so much easier if I didn't constantly find people stopping him from receiving the same rights as all other children. We were faced with years wasted, not because people were getting up to speed on the skills needed to support him, but by the complete intransigence from local authorities and education officials."

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive said it had invested £14m in additional support for learning in 2006/07 and a further £35m for additional support staff.

She said: "The Executive is committed to ensuring equality, diversity and inclusion in school provisions across Scotland, and legislation has been put in place to support this."