Returning to work

Like everyone else, parents of disabled children need paid employment for financial reasons. Caring for a disabled child also involves significant extra expenditure over a much longer period of time.

Going out to work reduces the isolation commonly experienced by parents with disabled children. In common with other mothers returning to work, mothers of disabled children report increased self-esteem and an identity outside their caring/parenting role.

Why families might have problems returning to work

Although some parents of disabled children actively make the choice to stay at home to care for their child, for the vast majority of parents this is not a choice, but a situation forced upon them. Parents highlight the following barriers:

  • demands of caring leaves them with limited time or too exhausted to work
  • the volume and inflexibility of daytime appointments and meetings
  • lack of opportunity for part-time or term-time employment and availability of training courses
  • inflexible employers or managers who have negative attitudes to caring responsibilities
  • lack of information, support and guidance on returning to work and their rights in relation to work
  • inadequate and/or inaffordable alternative care services such as childcare
  • unreliable transport services and help in emergencies
  • a lack of awareness and access to carer's assessments that consider their right to work, study and leisure opportunities.

Sometimes parents with disabled children are made to feel like they are 'expected' to stay at home and care for their child by professionals. This further restricts their right to a life beyond their caring responsibilities.

How you can help families return to work

  • find out if your local area has a Carers' Centre or Carers' Project which offers advice and guidance for carers wishing to return to work or training
  • remember that the first stage may be support in gaining the confidence to take new steps
  • find out if local colleges or adult education centres give concessions to carers
  • find out from your Council for Voluntary Services (CVS) about local volunteering opportunities
  • have information available on training and schemes aimed at helping parents get back to work, including volunteering opportunities
  • find out how your local Jobcentre Plus supports parents with disabled children.

How Contact can help

We have lots of information and resources that you can share with families or direct them towards.

Our helpline

Advisers on our helpline can let parents know:

  • how going back to work is likely to affect their benefits and help them with a 'Better off in work calculation'
  • their rights whilst at work and what options are available if parents are thinking about leaving work
  • their right to a carer's assessment and direct payments
  • the different types of childcare available and the experience staff have of working with disabled children.


Parent guides

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 manage caring and employment:

For more parent guides on topics such as benefits and holidays and leisure, see our full publications list [PDF].


Online information

We have lots of advice and information on our website that you might want to share with parents, including: