Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Childcare for Disabled Children: The Ugly Truth Osborne won't Face.

I'm going to talk about it, because sadly no one else will. In amongst the criticisms of George Osborne's new Childcare Voucher scheme was not a single mention of how parents of Disabled children were expected to cope with the daily grind of looking after their child 24/7 and 365 days a year.

It is quite frankly SHAMEFUL Not unexpected given this Governments onslaught against disabled adults in the form of ATOS, but nonetheless shameful. The whole slant of both the TV news reports and newspapers were "What about stay-at-home mums?" The Mail actually  defended stay-at-home mums but in their context of  the better off who wanted to nurture their children. Nothing wrong in that as all parents should get a CHOICE of how they want to best care for their children.

But parents  of a disabled child get their choices taken away the minute they know their child has a disability. I have been in that position. After 3 boys, my 4th son is autistic. Other parents face the difficulties associated with children with physical disabilities. Your childcare choice is narrowed more than likely down to one option:

"I must stay at home and care for this child 24/7."

Anyone feeling able to go back to work then confronts the childcare on offer. Most ordinary working families cannot afford a nanny. So then it comes down to a childminder or a nursery. But Mr Osborne is increasing the ratio of children a childminder and nursery can have. That is certainly not going to work for a disabled child who may need 1-1 support. Lets take a look at the nursery options then. Nurseries often refuse disabled children who have very special needs. They simply do not have the staff either qualified or able to offer that support. When my son was 3  uears old,I was very very fortunate as I lived in Liverpool, and was offered a place at a nursery that specialised in caring for Disabled children. This is rare and places are like gold dust. As for specialist nurseries that cater for a wide range of disabilities - these simply do not exist in large swathes of the UK. I am sure a Labour Government would look to incorporate a disability nursery into Sure Start Centres.

If a parent can find a nursery or childminder who has the expertise to care for your child, the cost is then prohibitive. Here you can almost say disabled children are discriminated against. As the disabled child needs more or less 1-1 support so the fees incurred increase. If you are hoping to return to your 16 hour a week job in a supermarket forget it. It will take a full time wage to pay for childcare. The best you can hope for is a respite break for a few days a year from social services, but as cuts take place these respite breaks are becoming less infrequent.

And so to Osborne's childcare voucher - made available to 2 earner families some on a combined income of £300k. There is no mention of ANY help, let alone more detailed help for parents of Disabled children. Labour had made an excellent beginning with Sure Start Centres, many of whom were helping disabled children. These are now being shut by a Government whose own PM had experience of bringing up a disabled child!

So when we talk about childcare choices, let's start the dialogue to include ALL children. From that point let us assume that parents of disabled children need more help, more financial support to work if they want to and let's give parents of Disabled children the one thing they don't have now: Real Choice