Families with disabled children left in the dark on childcare

A new report from Family and Childcare Trust has found that many local authorities are not providing the information that families with disabled children need to access childcare.

The report, Childcare for all: the role of the Local Offer, argues that, despite local authorities having a legal duty to provide information about services and support for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in their area, the quality and scope of information and guidance available is patchy and varies significantly.

The trust found that 32 per cent of local authorities do not provide basic guidance for parents about accessing childcare for children with disabilities, whilst only 16 per cent provide information for parents about how to raise concerns about a childcare provider.

Only 51 per cent of local authorities had a directory of childcare listings that included information from providers about their individual ‘Local Offer’, including details such as accessibility arrangements and specialist staff training.

According to the Contact a Family Levelling the playing field for families with disabled children and young people report from 2014, nine in ten parents with disabled children said that it was more difficult for them to find childcare than for a non-disabled child. With finding childcare for disabled children proving problem, the need for good information becomes even more important.

Ellen Broome, deputy chief executive at the Family and Childcare Trust, said: “High quality information and guidance increases parents’ confidence that suitable childcare is available and helps them to overcome barriers to accessing a childcare place. The current lack of information adds yet another obstacle to the struggle families often face when looking for childcare that gives their children the best start in life and helps parents to work.

“Our report shows that while some local authorities are providing parents with excellent information, very few provide the comprehensive information and advice parents need. Most local authorities have clear areas for improvement. Local and central government must work together to make sure that every family is able to get the information they need to access high quality childcare.”