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What are the benefits and costs of providing peer support to parents of disabled children?
Around 1 in 20 children in the UK live with chronic health conditions, most commonly neurodisabilities such as cerebral palsy or autism. Most disabled children live at home, supported by their families. These families can face considerable challenges. Parents of disabled children are at increased risk of relationship problems, stress, depression and lack of sleep. Family relationships may suffer through exhaustion and stress and parents report feeling isolated, lonely and unsupported.
Peer support between parents of disabled children has the potential to alleviate some of the stress and problems faced by families and have a positive impact on their lives. Peer support can be broadly defined as emotional and practical support given by people who have had similar experiences themselves and can be delivered formally, for example through condition-specific charities, or less formally such as in internet forums. This project will evaluate the peer support service offered by Face2Face in Devon and Cornwall. Face2Face is a national, charitable network which offers peer support to parents of disabled children from trained befrienders.
The study is being run by the Peninsula Cerebra Research Unit (PenCRU). PenCRU are collaborating with Face2Face in Devon and Cornwall and a broad group of other stakeholders, including a number of parents of disabled children, to evaluate how peer support works and the impact it can have on parents of disabled children.