A new report has revealed that many disabled children are denied access to childcare over the summer holidays
“I cannot cope with another holiday like this summer,” says a parent of a disabled child. “Sorting this is a priority or my and my son’s health will be at risk.” This parent’s experience is just one of those cited in a report about how a lack of holiday childcare is affecting families of disabled children.
The report draws on the findings of a recent survey conducted by disabled children’s charity KIDS, in partnership with Mencap. It asked 1,192 parents from across England about their access to appropriate childcare during the summer holidays.
According to the Childcare Act 2006, local authorities must provide sufficient childcare provision for parents who want to work or take up training, for children up to the age of 14 (or up to 17 for disabled children). It must be flexible, affordable, quality, inclusive childcare that meets the needs of the community as a whole, but those on low incomes or with disabled children, in particular. Local authorities are not necessarily expected to provide the childcare, but should work with local private and voluntary sector providers to meet the need.
However, over half of local authorities have reduced their budgets for childcare and play services in the last year, according to the Daycare Trust.
Now, the report from KIDS and Mencap, ‘Are Cuts to Local Authority Budgets Denying Families The Right to Childcare?’, illustrates the impact that reduced budgets can have. Published on 21 October, it shows that a third of parents of disabled children received no holiday childcare this summer.
The majority of families surveyed found it ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ to find appropriate childcare for their disabled child. While 65% of families received less than ten hours of childcare a week, 27% received none. And 1 in 10 respondents said their child had been refused a place in childcare because of their disability.
Even when they did get childcare, parents found that it often wasn’t long or flexible enough to meet their needs. Respondents commented that the care did not fit with the times or days that it was needed, and was often unsuitable for their child.
And, crucially, a third of parents surveyed said that holiday childcare is too expensive. It’s estimated that some parents of disabled children faced childcare costs of up to £11,700 per year – compared with the average of £5,028, according to the Daycare Trust. There was also concern over the prohibitive cost of transport to childcare.