Skip to main content

Do Siblings Matter Too?

A summary of a research project investigating what is it like to be a sibling of a child with a disability

It has been estimated that there are around 800,000 children with a disability in the UK, which equates to approximately 5.5% of the total child population (Department for Work and Pensions, 2012; Office for National Statistics, 2012). A child is diagnosed with a severe disability every 25 minutes and 99% of these children are cared for at home by a family member. Literature uses different definitions of disability and severe disability, resulting in a number of different figures for the incidence of disability within the UK. Research has estimated that 80% of children with a disability will have one or more siblings.

There has been a considerable amount of research around the needs of children with disabilities and the needs of their parents. However, there has been a more limited investigation of the issues for the siblings of these children and much of this has focused around their role as a young carer . Families with a child with a disability face a number of additional difficulties and a higher rate of social exclusion than other families.

Sibs, a national charity for siblings of adults and children with a disability, have identified a number of difficulties for siblings and state: “There is a need for further research on the needs of young siblings who currently have a disabled brother or sister...From our experience it would seem that being a sibling today is harder now than it was 20 or even 10 years ago due to the increased numbers of disabled children with complex medical needs, the diminished availability of extended family for support, the inadequacy of services for families of disabled children, and the fact that the majority of siblings are the only sibling in the family.”