FAMILIES raising disabled and seriously ill children face being "even further disadvantaged" as a result of the pandemic, according to a new report.

Research by the charity, Family Fund, found that half of families have seen their income fall as a result of the pandemic, with 41 per cent saying they have had to fall back on savings.

The survey of 257 families in Scotland with disabled or seriously ill children was carried out in August.

Nine out of 10 parents said the coronavirus outbreak had negatively affected their children’s health and wellbeing, with two thirds saying their child is still receiving less health and social care support than before the start of lockdown.

The report concluded: "Many families won't quickly be able to replenish their savings that for significant numbers have depleted to nothing, pay back the money they have borrowed and debts they have accumulated, or be able to catch up on their household bills they have fallen behind on.

"Likewise, even if support returns to pre-coronavirus levels soon, the negative effect the outbreak has had on the mental and emotional wellbeing of many disabled or seriously ill children, as well as the setbacks it has had on their development and learning, will take some time to recover from."

READ MORE: Dental crisis: warnings over rocketing waiting lists and private patients getting faster treatment as NHS restarts 

Family Fund, which provides grants to families on low income raising disabled or seriously ill children, has seen applications for support from families in Scotland surge by over 25% in recent months.

It has received emergency funding from the Scottish Government to support 1,210 more families to take short respite breaks.

Salena Begley MBE, the charity's Glasgow-based partnership development manager, the need for respite from caring "is greater than ever".

Ms Begley, who is currently sharing the charity's findings with ministers, said it saw a surge in requests for digital devices and art materials as parents adapted to home schooling, as well as increased demand for outdoor play equipment.

She said many families felt that they were living "hand to mouth" and feared falling deep into debt.

“Our families don’t have the funds to fall back on, for example if their washing machine breaks down," said Ms Begley.

“They were already disadvantaged pre-Covid with higher energy costs and higher travel costs. They have to replace items more often and access specialist equipment which isn’t always funded through statutory provision. Those pressures increased significantly during lockdown.

"Half of families had a reduction in their income, but at the same time many were seeing an increase in their household costs.

"Quite often our parent carers are in insecure low-paid work. The impact of Covid on employment has been devastating but our families have been more at risk.

"I spoke to one two parent family where they were both working locally to be near their child’s school. All of a sudden they were both out of work and having to access Universal Credit for the first time."

Vanessa Morris, from Falkirk, is among the parents to contribute to the survey.

The 27-year-old gave up her job in retail to care full-time for her five-year-old son, Jack, who has autism, ADHD, and global developmental delay - meaning his understanding lags behind other children of his age.

He also has hypermobility, which causes looseness in his joints and debilitating pain and weakness in his limbs and muscles.

READ MORE: Ultrasound used to spot heart defects in unborn babies 

Mrs Morris, who lives with husband Chris and their younger son, Lucas, aged two, said the loss of routine during Covid has been a major trauma for her son.

She said: “Jack, like many autistic children, likes routine and structure. Things happen the same way, on the same day. We do things to support this such as having a large calendar at home with pictures, so he knows Monday is a nursery day, and you will see this person, and daddy won’t be at home, because he’ll be at work.

“So when lockdown happened, he was extremely upset and confused. Meltdowns, which happen when Jack is completely overloaded by something, but can’t express or understand what is happening, were happening multiple times a day."

The family, who live in a two bedroom flat with no garden, also had to cope without the usual support from grandparents as well as the loss of regular NHS support.

Before lockdown, Jack had received weekly physio and speech and language therapy, as well as occupational therapy and six-monthly check ups with a paediatrician.

“They were all put off," said Mrs Morris.

"They tried doing physio with the NHS Near Me videocall, but that wasn’t really good for Jack because he was overstimulated by the technology and just got really hyper.

“I'm worried about going back into lockdown.

“There has been a definite deterioration in Jack's physical and emotional and mental health and wellbeing. We didn’t get any check up calls, which I expected, to see how he was doing.

"It was a huge mental strain on me if I’m honest."