9/10 families unable to find suitable holiday club for their disabled child this summer

5 mins read

Friday 14 July 2023

Tags: disabled children's partnership, holiday clubs, summer holidays

BBC News have exclusively revealed our new findings that show nine out of 10 families have been unable to find a suitable holiday club or activity for their disabled child this summer.

Watch it on BBC Breakfast at 1:16:34.

The majority of families with disabled children (81%) would like a holiday club for their disabled child during the six-week break. 40% so they can work, and 77% so their child can socialise with other children. 

But just 10% have found something suitable. Only 4% of everyone surveyed said they’d found something for the days and hours they need. 

78% parents feeling stressed and anxious this summer

These are the findings of a new survey by Contact and the Disabled Children’s Partnership.

Almost 1,800 parents caring for 2,000 disabled children responded to the online survey between 17 June- 3 July 2023.  

Other key findings include: 

  • 78% of parents feel stressed and anxious due to lack of holiday clubs this summer. 
  • 34% of parents don’t work because of a lack of childcare including holiday clubs. 
  • One in five say that the holiday clubs they have identified are oversubscribed. 
  • Over a third of families report that holiday club providers cannot meet their child’s needs.  
  • For those parents in paid employment, 19% will have to reduce the hours they work during the six-week summer break. 

The lack of holiday clubs is particularly hard for families with disabled children who have no informal childcare arrangements. Playdates are just not an option. 27% of families did say they would be tag-teaming with their partner or extended family. But for children with high care needs, family and friends can’t step in. 

In addition, disabled children need structure and routine to maintain sensory regulation, which helps reduce anxiety and challenging behaviour.  When structure is absent, disabled children’s needs may increase not just in the home, but also upon their return to school.   

Disabled children left behind yet again

Anna Bird, Chair of the Disabled Children’s Partnership and Chief Executive of Contact, said:

“The lack of available and suitable holiday clubs for disabled children this summer is piling increased pressure on families. Many parents say they are dreading the holidays and feel a sense of despair. The consequences for disabled children, including isolation, lack of social contact and routine, will make the return to school much harder. 

“The government has made childcare one of its key priorities, but disabled children are being left behind yet again. Workforce issues, ratios and lack of special educational needs training all make it harder for disabled children to access holiday clubs and childcare. 

“We need urgent action to address this so families with disabled children can look forward to holidays rather than dread them.” 

Specific disability provision, workforce reform and training needed

Disabled Children’s Partnership and Contact are calling on all UK governments and local councils to: 

  • Prioritise provision of holiday clubs and childcare for disabled children and their families. For example, ensure at least 15% of activities funded by the Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme and their equivalent in the nations are specifically for disabled children. We know from our research that many disabled children are not able to take advantage of government schemes to help families with childcare,including the free hours and the HAF programme in England.
  • Address workforce issues, ratios of staff to children and special educational needs training. This will ensure disabled children are able to benefit from holiday clubs and childcare.  
  • Provide training on reasonable adjustment for providers. We want good communication, inclusive and welcoming attitudes and a willingness to take small steps to make the activity or experience inclusive. Providers should take parents’ views on board to make this happen. 

“We get no time together as a family – it doesn’t seem fair”

Jasmin is struggling to find suitable holiday childcare for her son, Max

Our Change Maker Jasmin Manley from Cheshire, said: “My little boy, Max, is five-years-old and has an undiagnosed genetic disorder. He has complex needs and requires help with most day-to-day tasks.

“He started school last September at a local specialist school, so last summer was the first long holiday we had. We soon found out that the SEN holiday clubs wouldn’t do personal care like nappy changes. We assumed there would be some sort of holiday club running at the school for working parents like they have in mainstream. But there wasn’t anything. And the short breaks that we access only run during term time. There was nothing at all for a complex needs child like Max. And it’s exactly the same this year.”

“Me and my partner are having to to take time off work to care for Max, which means we get no time together as a family. And Max won’t get the chance to have fun with children his own age. I don’t understand how we’re expected to work to pay tax but also care for a child 24/7 in the school holidays.

“I wish there was a service that provided even the smallest bit of childcare in the holidays for children with complex needs. It just doesn’t seem fair.”

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