Finding suitable childcare during school holidays and term time

3 mins read

Thursday 14 July 2022

Tags: disability, childcare, employment, holidays

The summer holidays are well underway in Scotland and Northern Ireland and are about to start in England and Wales. For families there is lots to look forward to in the school holidays but finding suitable childcare isn’t easy.

Although childcare settings and holiday clubs are meant to welcome and include disabled children, in practice this is often not the case. Many families report that childcare and holiday clubs can be unsuitable, expensive and availability limited for disabled children.

Some families with disabled children recently spoke to the Metro newspaper about their difficulties finding suitable childcare during the six week summer holidays.

Lack of funding

While local authorities in England have a duty to provide childcare for all, a third admit there is not enough childcare for children with special educational needs (SEN), due to a lack of funding. As a result, there continues to be a gap in take up of free childcare hours for disabled children.

And in a move that Contact fears will make the situation worse, the government has been consulting on reducing staff ratios in childcare settings in England. Contact is against the proposals which seem certain to make settings less accessible for children who may need additional support.

Childcare helps educational and social development

Una Summerson, Head of Policy at Contact, said: “High quality, flexible childcare helps children’s educational and social development. It also enables parents to maintain paid employment. But for too many, suitable holiday clubs and childcare remain a pipe dream.

“The shortage of staff with disability experience and low levels of pay in the childcare workforce is an issue. In addition research shows families with disabled children pay eight times more towards childcare costs than other families, making it unaffordable for many.

“We would like to see an increase in the child disability addition under Universal Credit to enable more families to afford holiday clubs and childcare. There also needs to be more funding for local authorities and childcare providers to help improve the quality and number of places for children with disabilities.”

Template letters for parent carers

At Contact we’ve put together template letters for parent carers in England whose children are refused childcare. These are based on the most common barriers to accessing childcare for disabled children and what can or can’t be done to overcome them.

Una added: “Parents need to feel confident that childcare or summer holiday club can meet their child’s needs – good communication, inclusive and welcoming attitudes, a willingness to take small steps to make the activity or experience inclusive, taking parents’ views on board to make this happen.”