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Disability and inclusion

Barnardo's believes that every child, whatever their needs, has the right to participate fully in their community and to have the same choices, opportunities and experiences as other children; to make local friends, and to access, play, leisure and recreational facilities.


A childhood dominated by institutional care can leave young disabled people ill-prepared for an independent life in the community. Often there is little option but to move into adult forms of residential provision. Even where disabled children are able to stay with their families, their social lives are likely to be more limited, they are more dependent on their parents for leisure activities than non-disabled children, and the family can face a life living in poverty.

Families with disabled children are often poorer; they are often forced to live in unsuitable housing; they cannot get out and about; and they cannot access childcare that would enable them to go to work and break out of poverty.

Disability facts

  • It costs on average twice as much to raise a child with a severe impairment as a non-disabled child. The main areas of additional expenditure are transport, toiletries, bedding, food, replacing damaged household items, special toys and equipment.
  • Disabled children and their families suffer from social exclusion often as a result of a combination of linked problems, including poverty, segregation, discrimination and inadequate provision of support services.
  • Of all families in the UK who care for disabled children, 30% either are or have been living in poverty. A fifth of families with disabled children are also reported to be living in cold, damp housing in poor repair.

Services working with disabled children

Barnardo's is committed to the principle of inclusion for disabled children and works with children from pre-school age to 16 plus. We support young people with special educational needs and those who have been, or are at risk of being, excluded from school. We also work with young disabled people who, because of their disability, have been denied access to normal everyday living and experiences. Barnardo’s has a significant number of services which provide short breaks for disabled children, enabling them to have new experiences and giving their families much needed respite.

At Barnardo's DAIS Service we offer a range of services which include Crisis Intervention, PA and Outreach, Mediation and Holiday Schemes.

We also have the Special Educational Needs Disability Inclusion and Support Service which supports parents and young people who need support, advice and guidance in relation to their Education Healthcare Plan or any specific issues with education.

We also run the Young People's Forum which is a group for children and young people from the age of 13 years.  the group aims to enable young people to have a voice in their community and support them to develop their independence and social skills.

Some of our services working with disabled children

  • Sunrise Children's Centre
  • Dr B's Kitchen Belfast
  • Hamara Family Project