“We feel abandoned.” Joe’s mum, Katherine……..“It’s been really tough a lot of the time.

 "I'm now really beginning to struggle.”……Gwenda, a Cherry Trees parent, mum to Grace.

"I think the simple fact that I am frequently unable to do something like take a phone call speaks volumes for how much we are missing our support and normal school routine!”  Cherry Trees parent - shielding

Experiences like those above make for a troubling, but very real read, lived and silently experienced behind many closed front doors across the UK largely unknown to many. They are experiences our charity hears several times a week as the calls come into Cherry Trees. Exhausted families, (who for multiple reasons can’t get to us – shielding, self-isolating, etc) worn out by the physical and emotional demands of full time care at home as they juggle caring for their child with disabilities with all the other ways of living lockdown has introduced. Home schooling, working from home, keeping their home running – a horrible, stressful existence that was unasked for and is being shouldered heroically.

The latest research into life under lockdown for families with a child (or even children) with disabilities has been published this week and it makes for fairly desperate reading. A survey carried out recently of over 4,000 families across the UK by The Disabled Children’s Partnership concludes families with children with disabilities feel forgotten, waiting for the day that the government will finally turn to prioritising their needs with a plan that will make life manageable again; enabling families to resume essential contact with their community and support networks.

With the survey finding 72% of families are now providing a lot more care compared to before lockdown, the absence of local support services, physiotherapists, teachers and even contact with the wider world is really being felt and having a mostly negative impact on the whole families well-being.

As 68% of siblings are put under enormous pressure to help with caring, washing, dressing, lifting and even schooling their brother or sister, it’s another twist in the tale of the pressure cooker of lockdown asking more of each family member to enable all of them just to ‘get through’ each day. At Cherry Trees we know that many of the children that come to visit us have a brother or sister at home who are young carers and often it’s something our siblings are proud of, but actually there needs to be more support available to take some of this weight off their own young shoulders.

Very few children with disabilities are able to access their specialist education provision, and those that are have been put on significantly reduced timetables. We are aware of the impact that the recent government announcement had on families with children without disabilities that their primary age children may not return until September. At the moment the families that use Cherry Trees, and other similar services, still do not even have a date where their children’s education will be resumed, despite their vulnerability.

With a long summer stretching ahead The Disabled Children's Partnership is sending a loud and clear call to the government to do something – today, to help support families, pushing for some of society’s most vulnerable and in need children to be prioritised.

Here at Cherry Trees, we know this story all too well – it’s our charity’s raison d’etre – to ensure families can cope – and that’s at any time, national pandemic or not. We have been throughout the coronavirus and continue to be somewhat of a rarity – the only commissioned short break service provider in Surrey for children with disabilities that has remained open throughout this whole pandemic. Through a great community approach we have proudly delivered 2599 hours of respite care in May alone – we can only play our part but now it’s time for bigger forces to help families survive and emerge, embracing the longer summer days with a sense that things will be really be okay.