Campaigning for Equal Access to Childcare

In 2014 Every Disabled Child Matters launched a new campaign called Levelling the Playing Field following an independent parliamentary inquiry into childcare for disabled children and those with Special Educational Needs.

Chaired by Pat Glass and Robert Buckland, the Inquiry held three oral evidence sessions with representatives from childcare providers, local authorities, family members and young people themselves. Consensus from this evidence found that the childcare workforce often lacked the knowledge and skills required to work with disabled children. This knowledge helped to build the Inquiry’s recommendations that called on the Government to develop an action plan to meet the needs of families with disabled children who have, more often than not, struggled to access affordable, suitable and high-quality childcare. Moreover, the issue was becoming topical, as at the time childcare was becoming one of the top electoral issues for the General Election with all parties pledging to expand the free childcare entitlement. All parties were contacted and urged to recognise that disabled children could not be an afterthought in the childcare system and their electoral offer.

An expression of interest to provide oral and written evidence was sent to all EDCM supporters, as well as those of the campaign partners – Contact a Family, Family Childcare Trust and Working Families. Three oral evidence sessions were carried out with representatives from childcare settings, MP's, parent carer organisations and local authorities sharing their experiences alongside parents and young people on affordability, availability, inclusion and the quality of childcare available in their local area. A report was written and disseminated online to both supporters and external stakeholders and this also included results from an additional parent survey on the issue for those who preferred to share their experience anonymously. The final written report (Parliamentary Inquiry into services for disabled children) was launched at a Parliamentary reception in the summer of 2014.

A year later, in the summer of 2015, with the Childcare Bill making its way through Parliament, an update was launched by all the campaign partners with the addition of Mencap. The update – named ‘Levelling the Playing Field’ focussed on the proposed extension of the 30-hour free childcare. Results showed that 40% of families with disabled children are not accessing the current free childcare offer of 15 hours a week - 10 times more than families with non-disabled children. The main concern is that these plans may not work for families with disabled children unless the barriers currently preventing them from accessing free childcare are removed, such as adequately trained staff. Another supporter action was built and sent to supporters during the Second Reading of the Bill to highlight the need for a proper workforce strategy. 

From the year on update parents who responded to the survey and answered they were not accessing the full hour provided the following reasons:

  • A quarter of parents said that the nursery or child-carer refused a place or excluded their child because of their disability or special education needs.
  • 30% did not think the childcare provider had adequately trained staff
  • 47% said their child needs, 1:1 care or other additional support which was not available or affordable

It has now been recognised more broadly by the Government that current childcare for families with disabled children is not sufficient. Through successful lobbying on the Childcare Bill with the Special Educational Consortium, Family and Childcare Trust, National Children’s Bureau and Mencap, a commitment has now been made, by the Minister, to develop a real workforce strategy. This strategy will take place in four strands covering career progression, supporting the workforce (CPD), attracting graduates to the profession as well as further SEN training and understanding.