Disabled children and young people can benefit from the opportunities that childcare, play and leisure activities offer them, such as making friends. Getting this right in the early years helps parents build up trust and confidence with services and can make inclusion into school much easier.
Why families might have problems accessing childcare
Despite the increase in childcare places over the past ten years, childcare for disabled children remains a problem for families because it is often:
- too expensive - parents are often asked to pay a premium to cover additional support costs and the tax credit rules do not cover this
- scarce and patchy, particularly in the school holidays and for older children
- not appropriate to their needs and/or is rationed where available.
Parent also struggle with childcare because:
- they lack information on where to find it, or assume childcare won't be accessible to them
- they lack confidence in leaving their child with someone else or assume staff won't have the necessary skills, particularly if their child has medical needs
- they cannot find someone willing to look after their child
- transport arrangements are inflexible to their needs.
How you can help families access childcare
- find out about what's available locally - sitting services, crèches, short breaks, childminders, extended school services, nurseries, hospices, specialist provision and funding streams to support inclusion
- be proactive in telling parents and other professionals what is available including schemes to help them finance childcare
- understand parents may lack trust in mainstream settings with limited experience of working with disabled children
- work with parents to understand the individual needs of their child and build up confidence with crèche and childcare taster sessions
- understand local school transport arrangements
- work together to identify and record unmet demand for childcare
- run a local campaign to attract and train people wanting to provide childcare for disabled children.
How Contact can help
We have lots of information and resources that you can share with families or direct them towards.
Contact a Family is one of the partners of SENDirect, the single port of call for families looking for services, support and activities in the local area for children with additional needs.
Our parent guides are free to download or to order in print from our helpline. The following guides might be helpful to parents trying to access childcare:
- Getting social care services when your child has additional needs - England [PDF] - tells families what support is available, like short breaks
- Getting direct payments to buy social care for your disabled child - England and Wales [PDF] how parents can get help to buy in social care services
- Understanding your child's behaviour [PDF] - parents and childcare providers can use this guide to understand how to care for a child.
For more parent guides on topics such as helping children sleep, potty/toilet training and feeding and eating, see our full publications list [PDF].
We have lots of advice and information on our website that you might want to share with parents, including: