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2012 Conference Presentation

Equity Belgium

6 September 2012

The socioeconomic and family situation of Flemish families with a child with special needs as indicators for policy effectiveness

Leen Sebrechts, University of Antwerp, Belgium
Jef Breda, University of Antwerp, Belgium


Empowerment is the central topic of the widespread citizenship paradigm in the disability sector. Within this postmodern paradigm, people with disabilities have legal, economic and social rights and obligations that enhance the control of their own existence and they must be granted the opportunity to participate in society.

However, persons, and so also children, with a disability continue to experience integration difficulties. Besides negative changes in health, a weak socioeconomic situation of a family can have a considerable impact on the empowerment and integration opportunities that are available. Using results of multinomial and binary logistic regression analyses on Flemish data, this paper explores two different aspects that influence the effectiveness of the new institutional dynamics. First, we explore the socioeconomic situations of Flemish families that have children with special needs. The focus is on the care capacity of the informal care giver. Second, we investigate the use of different care services and the relevant factors. The emphasis falls on the care burden related to the special needs of the child.

The results indicate that families in a weak socioeconomic situation have more often a child with special needs, but having a disabled child does not directly undermine this socioeconomic living circumstances, although it does place a heavy strain on familial relationships.

So, within the deinstitutionalisation, personalisation and inclusion policy of the sector of persons with a disability, it is important to bear in mind the possible weak socioeconomic position and the high number of single parents of families with a child with special needs and the effects of that on the effectiveness of the policy measures in practice. Our Flemish welfare society eliminates much financial strain of families with a child with a disability, but despite substantial formal and informal care the government still seems not to be able to support adequately the caring duties of these families.

In general, the current situation is not mainly a problem of personal income and spending, but a problem of inappropriate, non-flexible care.


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