Jan Tregelles MencapFour out of 5 parents who have a child with a learning disability struggle to access services over the school summer holidays, according to a survey. 

The survey, by learning disability charity Mencap, found that of those parents who said they find it hard to access services, nearly 50% highlighted issues with using childcare, and 56% said they had problems with short breaks or respite services. Meanwhile, 7.7% struggled to access portage services.

Mencap is calling on local authorities and the government for improvements to be made to childcare and short break provision for disabled children and their families.

One parent who has struggled to find appropriate support this summer is Nigel Lambton, father of Harriet, 15, who has severe autism and a learning disability. “As a working parent, the summer holidays are often one of the toughest times of year for us as a family,” he said. “We have always found it incredibly difficult to find suitable childcare for my daughter when she is not at school. 

“My wife had to leave her career in medicine to care for Harriet, and is now working as a teaching assistant, which gives her the flexibility to be there for Harriet during the holidays. In term time, my wife works three days a week and uses the other days to organise the family and all the admin that come with Harriet’s direct payments that pay for her support. In the holidays she is usually with Harriet 24/7 leaving her no time for anything else.” 

Jan Tregelles, CEO of Mencap (pictured), said: “The summer holidays can be a challenging time for all parents. But finding suitable childcare can be extremely stressful for parents of children with a learning disability, a problem that is even more pronounced in the summer holidays. Whilst local authorities have a responsibility to offer sufficient childcare for all children, provision for disabled children is often lacking. This is something that urgently needs to be addressed both locally and nationally.

“For families caring 24 hours 7 days a week for a disabled child over the holiday period, it is unacceptable that they are struggling to get the respite they need through short breaks.”