Half a million siblings under 16

My little brother, via Skype

My little brother, via Skype

I post occasionally on Sibling Issues, partly because, as we’ve noted before, there are relatively few other people doing itA few of the guest writers on this blog are siblings themselves and we’ve talked a few times about them being a ‘hidden’ population.

In October, I set out to find out how big this hidden population was. When you can put numbers around something, you can start to understand it a little more. It can inform research direction within academia, and funding decisions outside it. It can focus minds and help people make tough decisions.

Traditional research, of course,  would be to send out some surveys and try and extrapolate from results. I’ve used this style before on papers, but it’s frustrating when you know the data is already there. It’s particularly annoying when you know that much more accurate data already exists.

In this case, almost all parents of children in the UK are in receipt of Child Benefit.  Also almost all parents of children with disabilities in the UK are in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

If you had two lists, one containing all the households that contained all the households that received Disability Living Allowance for someone under 16, and one containing the amount of Child Benefit claimed by each household, then we could count up the number of siblings. You’d only count the cases where both the ‘glass‘ and the DLA sibling were under 16, but you’d get better data than ever before.


What’s great is that we can do this.

If you worked for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), and had these datasets handy, then it would take you about 15 minutes to interrogate the system to get the numbers out.

In October last year, I made a Freedom of Information Request asking for

“the number of people receiving Disability Living Allowance on behalf of an under-16 year
old. I would like this information broken down by the overall amount of Child Benefit claimed by the person.”

This is the sort of the thing that the Freedom of Information Act is particularly useful for. There is no political point scoring happening here. The DWP know that this isn’t information that people are going to shout at them over, this is information that the government can release to the public to help make the world better.

This Friday, they came back to me;  Here are the figures.


Number of Children per Household Frequency Total Number of Siblings
1 101,100 0
2 144,590 144,590
3 81,270 162,540
4 34,310 102,930
5 12,120 48,480
6 4,200 21,000
7 1,520 9,120
8 540 3,780
9 210 1,680
10 80 720
11 30 300
12 10 110
Total 495,250


That’s 495,250 in total. As a minimum number of the siblings (under 16) of children (also under 16) with disabilities. I haven’t worked out how to extrapolate this to the siblings under 18, or adults. But I think that’s a very, very big number considering the tiny amount of attention paid to it.


Note – lots of caveats can be put in here, but I wanted to put these numbers out. This is clearly only one datapoint, but the DWP figures are as solid as one can imagine. For those interested, you can compare with the Office for National Statistics numbers here (there will be a couple of follow up (and very nerdy)) posts on the statistical differences.



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