You can get childcare until your child is 18 years old. Childcare can be helpful for both your child and your wider family:

  • It can help support the early learning of your child and boost their future life chances. [1]
  • It can support you to improve your confidence in supporting your children’s learning, and also give you the time to access other opportunities - like work. [2]

Your rights to childcare

Your child has rights regarding childcare. Here are a few things you should know about your rights:

  • Children with a learning disability have the right to receive childcare. [3]
  • Childcare providers must not deny disabled children access to childcare because they are disabled. [4] 
  • Providers must make sure they try their best to meet the needs of children with a learning disability. [5]
  • Local authorities must make sure they have services that are good enough in their local area to meet the needs of children and young people who have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
  • Local authorities must clearly set out what services families like yours can expect locally, and how you can access them as part of what is called a 'Local Offer'

Financial support is available

Childcare can be expensive, but there is plenty of financial support you can explore to help you cover the cost:

  • 15 hours of free early education for some 2 year olds and all 3 and 4 year olds.
  • An additional 15 hours of free childcare is also available for “working parents” of all 3 and 4 year olds. This additional 15 hours also applies to carers of a disabled child if their partner is working.
  • Tax-free childcare accounts being set up that can be paid into to cover the cost of childcare from a registered provider. The government will top up the account with 20% of childcare costs up to a total of £4,000 per year for a disabled child.
  • Additional financial support for families receiving tax credits and, in future, Universal Credit. These cover up to 70% and 85% respectively of the cost of care for parents with low incomes.
  • Employer-supported childcare vouchers which can be worth around £900 each year. Not all employers offer this scheme.

The Government's Childcare Choices website is also available to help guide parents on the best way to find affordable childcare. 

Choosing a childcare provider

Childcare for older children and young people

Some local authorities provide childcare for school-age children, including holiday clubs, after school clubs and Childminders. You can find out about childcare outside of school hours by visiting the Government website.


  1. Early Years Pupil Premium and funding for two-year-olds
  2. Rolling out free early education for disadvantaged two year olds: an implementation study for local authorities and providers
  3. In terms of both support to help them develop (UNCRC Article 23) and in terms of having access educational opportunities (HRA Protocol 1 Article 2, UNCRC Articles 28 and 29, UNCRPD Article 24).
  4. Equality Act 2010
  5. 0-25 SEND Code of Practice 2015
Ask the expert: Childcare & early years support

Visit FamilyHub to speak to James, Mencap's lead on policy work for children, young people and families.

You can ask James any questions you may have about childcare or wider early support for children with a learning disability.

View thread

How to get the support you need

Contact the Learning Disability Helpline, our advice and support line, for guidance and information about what support we can offer you.

Or why not take a look at our online community ? This is a place for parents and family carers of people with a learning disability to share experiences, advice and support.

You might also like