Diagnoses of mental health and behavioural conditions have surged since Covid with one in nine children reported to have a disability

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  • A total of 1.6million children are now classed as disabled, up a third since Covid
  • Almost 140,000 children received payments for behaviour disorders last year 

Diagnoses of mental health conditions and behavioural conditions such as ADHD have surged since Covid with one in nine children now reported to have a disability.

There are now 1.6 million children classed as disabled, up more than a third since Covid – with a 144 per cent rise in the number of children receiving benefits for behavioural disorders such as ADHD and autism, according to official data.

An increased willingness to diagnose behavioural issues as disorders and rising mental health problems among the young have been blamed for the surge.

Some 11 per cent of children reported a life-limiting condition lasting more than a year in 2021-22, compared to eight per cent in 2019-20 and six per cent ten years ago.

Department for Work and Pensions data shows a 69 per cent increase in disability benefits being claimed for children in the past decade, compared with a ten per cent overall rise in claimants.

Diagnoses of mental health conditions and behavioural conditions such as ADHD have surged since Covid with one in nine children now reported to have a disability (Stock Image)

Some 11 per cent of children reported a life-limiting condition lasting more than a year in 2021-22, compared to eight per cent in 2019-20 and six per cent ten years ago (Stock Image)

Some 11 per cent of children reported a life-limiting condition lasting more than a year in 2021-22, compared to eight per cent in 2019-20 and six per cent ten years ago (Stock Image)

Child claimants are also up 17 per cent since the pandemic compared with three per cent overall, The Times reported.

Ministers are concerned that child disability payments have risen to £3billion and are expected to reach £5 billion by 2030, potentially creating a generation reliant on benefits.

More than 650,000 children receive disability allowance, with just under half of the claims for learning disabilities, a rise of 37 per cent in five years.

Behavioural disorders – such as ADHD – have more than doubled in that time with almost 140,000 children receiving payments for behaviour disorders last year.

Sam Ray-Chaudhuri of the Institute for Fiscal Studies said measures such as lockdown are likely to have intensified the previous trend of deteriorating youth mental health.

He told The Times: ‘For young people [Covid] had the most impact on mental health rather than physically – lockdown, disruption to schools, there has been a big rise in absenteeism.

‘So it seems plausible there could be a decline in mental health over that period.’

The number of children claiming disability benefits are also up 17 per cent since the pandemic compared with three per cent overall, The Times reported (Stock Image)

The number of children claiming disability benefits are also up 17 per cent since the pandemic compared with three per cent overall, The Times reported (Stock Image)

Sam Ray-Chaudhuri of the Institute for Fiscal Studies said measures such as lockdown are likely to have intensified the previous trend of deteriorating youth mental health (Stock Image)

Sam Ray-Chaudhuri of the Institute for Fiscal Studies said measures such as lockdown are likely to have intensified the previous trend of deteriorating youth mental health (Stock Image)

Lucy Foulkes, a psychologist at the University of Oxford whose work has been influential in government, said there was greater awareness leading people to get help.

She said: ‘The threshold for what counts as a mental health problem or illness has shifted, so people are seeking support for milder versions of the same problem. I think both of these things are probably happening at once.’

A government spokesman said: ‘We know that awareness of autism and other neurodevelopmental conditions has increased markedly over the past decade and we have seen a rise in the numbers of children and young people seeking formal diagnoses.

‘We are committed to a welfare system which supports the most vulnerable but is fair on the taxpayer, and all benefits are subject to claimants meeting the eligibility criteria.’

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