Kids, the charity for disabled children and their families, and Mencap, polled disabled parents during September and received 1,192 responses from across England about their use of childcare during the summer.
Two-thirds of families surveyed reported that they found it ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ to find appropriate chidlcare for their disabled child. One in five families also pay more than twice as much for childcare than the national average.
One in ten parents said that they had been refused a childcare place because of their child’s disability.
Ahead of half-term next week, the charities are calling for local authorities to improve their childcare provision for disabled children.
The survey also highlights the ongoing struggle parents of disabled children face in finding work that will fit in with the needs of caring for a disabled child.
Four in ten parents said that they needed childcare to be able to work.
Sahar Dafaa Alla, who has three children, two of them on the autistic spectrum, has trained as a teaching assistant but told Nursery World that she has been unable to find a job to fit in with her childcare needs.
‘Part of the problem is that I want to work part-time and I find it hard to find suitable childcare.’
She said that previously she had used a private nursery for her eldest child, but found that while, ‘The nursery manager was very supportive, most of the other staff were not knowledgeable about special needs. The issue is the training.’
She said that nurseries and childminders need to be well aware of challenging behaviour and knowledgeable enough to cater for the needs of disabled children. She also said that one-to-one support was very important.
During the holidays, her eldest son now 13 has a carer through Hounslow Council, who takes him on days out, but she has found it harder to find play schemes for her six-year-old son, who also has autism.
Kevin Williams, chief executive of KIDS, said, ‘It’s disappointing, but not surprising, to hear that so many families have found themselves unable to access childcare for their disabled child this summer.
‘Caring for disabled children without the right support can have significant consequences for a whole family, not just a disabled child. The effect can be profound: disabled children lose out on opportunities to socialise with peers, relationships between parents can become strained or even break, and siblings or other family members may take on additional caring responsibilities. The financial implications are clear from the survey results.
‘Good quality childcare provision isn’t a luxury. In the longer term, the cost of providing support for families which have broken under the strain of caring for a disabled child can be significantly higher than ensuring they have access to appropriate childcare support in the first place – not just financially.’
David Congdon, Mencap head of campaigns and policy, said, ‘We know that families with a disabled child have many additional costs associated with their child’s care. Compounding this, parents face a real struggle to juggle caring for their disabled child and finding and maintaining full or even part-time employment.
‘Local authorities have a duty to provide sufficient childcare, which should be a universal service. Too often families of disabled children are let down during the holidays because of the inability of local authorities to provide suitable childcare for a fair price. We hope that the recently announced additional funding for childcare will reach disabled children and their families as a priority.’