Many parents of disabled children face problems with childcare this half term, including a lack of appropriate provision, high fees and even discrimination, according to a new survey.
One in 3 parents of disabled children received no holiday childcare during the summer of 2011, the survey, conducted by disability charities KIDS and Mencap, found. In addition, 2 in 3 families with disabled children found it 'difficult' or 'very difficult' to find appropriate childcare for their disabled child. Meanwhile, 1 in 10 disabled children were refused a child care place because of their impairments.
Even if they do get childcare, it is estimated that some 19% of parents of disabled children face costs of up to £11,700 per year for it, more than double the national average of £5,028. The survey, of 1,192 parents across England, also highlighted the continuing struggle that parents of disabled children face in order to maintain full-employment. While 19% of those surveyed were able to maintain a full-time job while caring for their disabled child, nearly half (41%) stated that they need childcare to be able to work. The lack of affordable, appropriate childcare was cited as a major reason why 43% of parents were unemployed. KIDS and Mencap have called on local authorities to improve their childcare provision to meet the requirements of families with disabled children, who have been among the hardest hit by local authority budget cuts.
While welcoming the recently-announced £300 million by government for childcare, the charities have urged local authorities to use this to make reasonable adjustments so that all children can access good quality childcare.
David Congdon, Mencap's 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."
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. "KIDS knows, from our 40 years of experience of working with disabled children, young people and their families that 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."