A Runcorn family has teamed up with food giant McCain and children’s charity Family Fund to highlight the barriers faced by families raising disabled and seriously ill children.

TV personality and autism awareness advocate Christine McGuinness has been looking at the impact lockdown has had on family mealtimes and family life.

Almost nine out of ten families raising disabled or seriously ill children (87 per cent) reported that the pandemic has negatively impacted their mealtimes, according to Mealtimes for All research, with nearly half of parents agreeing that the needs of their children stopped them coming together to eat.

Kirsty Waite and her husband Hayden live in Runcorn with their son Noah and their daughter Heidi, who has cerebral palsy.

They met up with Christine, who is married to Top Gear presenter Paddy, to talk about their shared experiences as part of a new campaign from Family Fund and McCain, who has pledged £1million, providing the charity with 150,000 grants for families with disabled or seriously ill children.

Runcorn and Widnes World:

The partnership supports McCain’s We Are Family series, which aims to champion real life British families and explores their differences.

Kirsty said: “Being a parent is the most special job in the world but it’s certainly not without its challenges, particularly over the past year.

“The extra support that Family Fund has given to our family, such as providing Heidi with an ipad to help with her school work, has been invaluable.

“It has freed up time for me and my husband to focus on things that help us spend more quality time together, such as preparing family meals.

Runcorn and Widnes World:

“The support McCain is giving Family Fund will make such a difference to other families like mine, where special family moments mean so much.”

During lockdown, the Waite family introduced Sunday meals together followed by a board game and cherished the “pockets of quality time together”.

Christine said: “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.

“While myself 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.”

More than half of families raising disabled children fear that things have become worse during the pandemic with 58 per cent saying they have become more lonely or isolated in lockdown.