The Department for Children, Schools and Families has pledged £12.5m to fund the expansion of the Disabled Children's Access to Childcare Programme, following ten three-year pilots which have been operating in Northumberland, Sefton, Bradford, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Cornwall, Solihull, Luton, Barking & Dagenham, and Camden in London (News, 21 May 2008).
As part of the programme, parents who have experience of using childcare for their own disabled children can become local 'Parent Champions', helping other parents to understand the services and support available to them.
The champions will be recruited by local authorities to promote new services to other parents.
Local authorities may also provide specialist training for childminders and staff so that they have the skills they need to work with disabled children.
Each of the remaining 142 local authorities that were not part of the pilot will receive at least £59,000 of Government funding.
The DCSF will be holding a National Take-Up Conference in February, where delegates from local authorities can attend workshops run by representatives from the current pilots to promote good practice. A report based on the findings from the pilot scheme will be published by the DCSF.
Children's minister Dawn Primarolo said, 'We have already seen from the ten pilot areas the benefits that this programme brings, with more disabled children having access to childcare. I'm keen to promote the Parent Champions who can speak with fellow parents in similar situations, explain all the options available and help them to know what to ask or look out for. As a result, we expect parents to gain confidence and enable their children and their families to take full advantage of what is on offer.'