Giving disabled children the childcare they deserve

As we move towards the General Election in 2015, childcare is high on the agenda of all three political parties.

That makes a lot of sense. Good quality childcare is a win-win for any government. It allows parents to work and has long-term social and educational benefits for all children, especially those who are disadvantaged.

Families with disabled children are financially disadvantaged by the extra costs of disability:

  • It costs three times more to raise a disabled child
  • Mothers of disabled children have one of the lowest employment rates of any group in society
  • Four in ten disabled children live in poverty.

Despite this, disabled children are too often missing from the childcare debate. This means their needs are not reflected in government solutions – such as support with childcare costs.

We are pleased that the government has started to listen to organisations like Scope (and our partners at the Disability Charities Consortium) about inconsistencies in guidance and legislation that unintentionally exclude disabled children.

This week in response to our concerns, the government clarified that the new Tax-free Childcare scheme will cover specialist childcare registered with the Care Quality Commission, as well as childcare registered with Ofsted. This is welcome news which means parents who buy childcare from short-breaks and domiciliary care providers – often because this is the only or best option available locally – will now also receive a 20% discount on their childcare costs.

(letter transcribed below)

letter

The clarification comes in the same week that an important parliamentary inquiry led by Pat Glass and Robert Buckland MP shed further light on how difficult it is for parents of disabled children to find suitable childcare.

The simple fact is that the childcare system is failing disabled children and their families:

  • Childcare costs up to eight times more for disabled children
  • There isn’t enough childcare for disabled children with complex needs and there’s a gap in the childcare market for older disabled children
  • Disabled children are turned away by mainstream providers who lack the confidence, training and resources to include them
  • Disabled children can’t access their full legal entitlement of 15 hours of free early years education

As the inquiry recommends, two good places for the current government to start addressing these failings would be to:

  • Undertake a cross-departmental review of funding to identify where support must be improved to meet the extra costs of childcare for disabled children and remove barriers to access
  • Pilot more flexible financial support for parents by increasing the upper limit of capped childcare costs under Universal Credit and the Tax-Free Childcare scheme

We hope the government will accept these recommendations as a way of building on the introduction of the Tax-free Childcare scheme under the Childcare Payments Bill.

Before 2015 all political parties must commit to tackling the lack of affordable, inclusive, high quality childcare for disabled children. Only then will parents get the support they need to work and disabled children the start in life they need and deserve.

One thought on “Giving disabled children the childcare they deserve”

  1. HM Treasury, 1 Horse Guards Road, London, SW1A 2HQ

    Mr Richard Hawkes
    Scope Chief Executives Department
    6 Market Road
    London
    N79PW
    30 June 2014

    Dear Mr Hawkes

    Application of Childcare Payments Bill for parents of disabled children
    Thank you for your letter of 19 June on the Childcare Payments Bill which was introduced into the House of Commons on 5 June following its announcement in the Queen’s Speech.

    I want to reassure you that the new childcare scheme is being designed so that parents of disabled children can take full advantage of the support it provides. We understand the pressures on families’ budgets, and that these can be particularly hard for parents of disabled children. We believe that parents should not be deterred from returning to work by the high cost of childcare, and we are introducing the scheme to support parents in their decision to go out to work, should they choose to do so.

    The scheme will be introduced from autumn 2015. Parents of disabled children under the age of 17 will be eligible for support, in recognition of the fact that childcare costs for this group can remain high in later years.

    This will provide support for parents using childcare which is formally registered or approved. I can confirm that this will include care regulated by the Care Quality Commission, and will allow parents using domiciliary care to access the scheme. Detailed definitions of what childcare will qualify for support will be set out in secondary legislation.
    The Government will be consulting on the draft secondary legislation shortly and will welcome your views.

    Yours sincerely,
    RT Hon Nicky Morgan MP

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