The hidden fight against the cost-of-living crisis for disabled children

A single tin of Heinz Beans now costs £1.40 at Tesco. To many Incredible Kids members who have a young person with additional needs, the recognisable, larger brands are important. Swapping to a supermarket’s own brand simply isn’t an option.

Two women chatting on a sofa with cups of tea

Jennie Prewett (right) chatting with a parent at a play session

We spoke to Incredible Kids Founder and mum of five, Jennie Prewett, about how the cost-of-living crisis has impacted disabled children.

“Right now, the families we help, can’t turn the heating off, can’t save on petrol and can’t swap to cheaper brands of food without causing harm or distress to vulnerable children,” says Jennie.

We ran a survey with our members to find out how the cost-of-living crisis affected them on a daily basis. Incredible Kids parent Michelle told us “I have a disabled child with health issues who cannot regulate their temperature. My electricity costs £450 per month so we have all been eating less.”

We asked our Service Manager Jeanna how the cost-of-living crisis was affecting families. She told us,  “It really concerns me that I know many families are struggling. But there’s a big void of communication filled with secrecy and shame. Sometimes I wonder whether it’s only myself and a group of select others feeling the hard mean pinch of the cost of living.

Woman with her hand on her hip in a Dr Seuss cat costume in front of balloons

Service Manager Jeanna dressed up for the Dr.Seuss-themed Incredible Kids Christmas party

“Living standards and poverty can have a serious impact on a child’s mental health,” says Jeanna. “If they cannot take part in the activities that other children do, then they feel isolated and different. This is the basis of Incredible Kids’ drive as a charity. Our service doesn’t just offer an inclusive, safe space, it offers new experiences to disabled young people. At Incredible Kids, every child can be part of the same community and have memories of childhood to remember. We want every family to feel that each week has a little bit of sparkle in it,” says Jeanna.

Jennie adds, “Inflation is having a devastating impact on charities. People have less disposable income and are not in a position to donate, even if they want to. Every last penny is spent on energy bills and rising mortgage payments. The government’s cost-of-living payments are welcome, but they fall woefully short of what’s needed for carers managing on the very tightest budgets.

“Things are also very tight here at Incredible Kids too, both in relation to our funding and amongst our staff and volunteers,” says Jennie. “Charities are under unprecedented pressure, and we are arguably only at the beginning of what the Bank of England predicts could be the longest recession on record. Charities are in the most precarious position I can remember.” Women with a backpack looking distressed in a supermarket aisle

Incredible Kids has been supporting families with disabled children with free meals and activities. We hope to help combat the stress caused by the many challenges affecting people right now. At a selection of our play sessions, we are currently trialling the offer of free tickets for those who cannot afford to pay the low entry price of £4 per family.

In March, thanks to grants from Bristol City Council and The National Grid we are giving out wellbeing packs and will include sensory-friendly blankets and treats for the whole family. It’s only a small gesture, and we can’t afford to add in any Heinz beans, but we hope it will put a smile on our members’ faces.

This blog featured in the Bristol Post.