New campaign calls for equal access to childcare

A new campaign called ‘Levelling the Playing Field’, has been lauched by Irwin Mitchell, Contact a Family, Every Disabled Child Matters and the Family and Childcare Trust, to call for equal access to childcare for disabled children.

As part of the campaign a new guide to help parents with disabled children seek redress if the childcare system fails them has been produced. 

The guide aims to make it easier for parents with disabled children to understand their rights around the government’s free early education offer and help them challenge decisions made by local authorities and childcare providers that results in their child being denied access to free childcare. Helping you access free childcare for your 2, 3 and 4 year old.

To access this guide, please click here.

Current Childcare Provision

The publication of this guide follows recent government proposals to extend its free early years’ education offer to working parents and is published one year after an independent Parliamentary Inquiry concluded that families with disabled children are being failed by childcare at every step.

Currently in England all 3 and 4 year olds are entitled to 15 hours of free early education /childcare for 38 weeks of the year. Some two year olds are also eligible, for example any two year old who is in receipt of DLA or who has a statement of special education need or an Education, Health and Care Plan. A 2 year old also qualifies if their parents are in receipt of certain means tested benefits. In May the government announced that it planned to double the amount of free childcare for working parents, from 15 hours to 30.

The Parliamentary Inquiry

The Parliamentary Inquiry into childcare for disabled children (July 2014) published its findings in a report: Parliamentary Inquiry into childcare for disabled children: levelling the playing field for families with disabled children and young people. The Inquiry found that

  • 41% of families with children aged 3 and 4 are unable to access the current 15 hours free entitlement to childcare due to a chronic lack of appropriate settings or lack of funding.
  • 86% of parent carers who responded to the Inquiry’s survey reported paying above average childcare costs, with 38% paying £11-20 and 5% paying more than £20
  • 72% of families with disabled children have cut back or given up work because of childcare problems
  • 92% of parents with a disabled child told last year’s Parliamentary Inquiry that finding childcare for their child is more difficult than for a non-disabled child.

The inquiry also revealed that the childcare situation gets worse as a disabled child gets older: the cost increases and availability gets even more limited as mainstream holiday and after school clubs are often not inclusive. The campaign has highlighted that there is confusion among local authorities, nurseries and schools about what their duties are in providing childcare for disabled children.

Amanda Batten, CEO of Contact a Family, says:

“We welcome the current political focus on childcare generally but disabled children continue to be sidelined. Disabled pre-schoolers are missing out on the early education and social opportunities enjoyed by their non-disabled peers and too many of their parents are being denied the opportunity to work because suitable childcare simply isn’t available. Our new guide is a first step towards levelling the playing field by helping parents understand their rights and showing them what they can do if the system lets them down.

“We will continue to campaign for the government to urgently address the inequality in childcare that currently exist. Families with disabled children must be given the same consideration in the childcare debate and have equal access to childcare.”

Stacie Lewis from London is mum to May who has Cerebral Palsy and says:

“When I wanted to return to work a year after May’s birth it should have been straightforward. It was anything but. Finding childcare was a nightmare. It was a challenge, true – but it was also heartbreaking. It was very early in my daughter’s life to learn that many people would only pay lip-service when it came to helping her.”

Get Involved

The coalition of charities are also appealing to families with disabled children under 5 years old to take part in a short survey about their access to the free early education offer. The findings will be used to build up a national picture of the barriers faced by these families and can be found at by clicking here

For further information contact: Michele Cefai, on 020 7608 8776 or 07599 930 090 and via email: