Christine McGuinness, mum, TV star and autism advocate, has teamed up with McCain and Family Fund to support the new ‘Mealtimes for All’ report that explores some of the barriers to family life experienced by families raising disabled and seriously ill children.

The report shows that the coronavirus pandemic has had a negative impact on families' quality time together. The survey was conducted to better understand the experience of families raising disabled or seriously ill children across mealtimes, family life and the wider community, as well as the barriers faced by all UK families around spending quality family moments together over the course of the pandemic.

The new ‘Mealtimes for All’ report is part of a new partnership between McCain and Family Fund.

Key findings:

  • Almost nine in 10 families raising disabled or seriously ill children (87%) reported that the pandemic has negatively impacted their mealtimes, while for families without disabled children this figure was much lower at 45%.
  • Nearly half of parents raising disabled or seriously ill children (48%) agreed the different needs of their children stopped them coming together for mealtimes.
  • In the last 12 months, 7% of parents without disabled children have gone without food for a whole day because there wasn’t enough money, but this rises to 20% for parents raising disabled or seriously ill children.
  • Over half of families raising disabled children fear things have gotten even worse for their children, with 58% saying they have become more lonely or isolated as a result of the pandemic.
  • While in a typical week 82% of families without disabled children sit down for a meal as a family on three or more days, families raising disabled children find it harder to get together, with two in three (64%) sitting down for food on three or more days.

Christine met mum Kirsty Waite, whose daughter Heidi has cerebral palsy, to talk about their shared experiences.

Christine says, “As a mum of three amazing children with autism, I understand the additional challenges faced by many families across the country raising disabled or seriously ill children. Whilst me and my husband have embraced more time with our children over the last year, there is no doubt we’ve faced our share of struggles and tougher moments too, which makes those quality moments together, like mealtimes, all the more important.

"Reading the findings of the McCain ‘Mealtimes for All report’ has really brought to life the stark reality many families raising disabled and seriously ill children face. Working with McCain and Family Fund and meeting a local family who have benefited directly from funding, I can see the life-changing impact this partnership will have in helping facilitate more quality family time for these families. At the end of the day, it’s all about the children and ensuring they are happy, and the more opportunities to do this the better!”

Kirsty says, “Being a parent is the most special job in the world, but it’s certainly not without its challenges, particularly over the last year. The extra support that Family Fund has given to our family, such as providing an iPad to help my daughter Heidi, who has cerebral palsy, with her schoolwork, has been invaluable; it has freed-up time for my husband and me to focus on things that help us spend more quality time together, such as preparing family meals. The support McCain is giving Family Fund will make such a difference to other families like mine, where special family moments mean so much.”

Mark Hodge, Marketing Director at McCain comments, “We understand the importance of quality time and how much parents value those special mealtime moments together. The new ‘Mealtimes for All’ research has shown us that even against the backdrop of the pandemic where we’ve been spending more time together, for some families the crisis has had a disproportionately negative effect.

"As a family business, we want to shine a spotlight on those families and children who have faced increasing hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we recognise that more needs to be done to help these families and drive positive societal impact. Through our partnership with Family Fund, we want to highlight the great work they do in providing the resources for families to enjoy the small things in life, as well as highlight the little moments they treasure, that many of us take for granted”

Cheryl Ward, Chief Executive of Family Fund says, “This last year has been tough on everyone, but at Family Fund we know it has particularly put enormous financial and emotional pressure on families we work with - those who are living on low incomes raising a disabled or seriously ill child. This report highlights how even simply spending time together has been made more difficult by the pandemic as parents and carers have dealt with new challenges every day.

"We're here to make a practical difference to families' lives and working with McCain will help us to support more families and ease some of those pressures that families raising disabled or seriously ill children face, allowing more families to enjoy the same opportunities, aspirations and quality of life that others do."

Read the full report ‘Mealtimes for All’ and find out more about our partnership with McCain at: