Ed Miliband is certainly talking the language that working parents need to hear. It is most welcome to know there will be increases in childcare provision hours from 15-25 hours per week for all 3+4 year olds under a Labour Government 2015. With the sheer vandalism of closing Gordon Browns Sure Start Centres and the new mantra of "let's get 2 year olds into education" this Government has made it clear there is a greater educational and childcare apartheid between rich and poor children than ever before.
Ed Miliband has his ear to the ground and knows working parents, and especially working poor parents need more childcare provision and at an affordable cost. It is a popular policy and one the Labour Party will be pushing at parents in the run up to 2015.
But Ed, you need to be bold. You need to go a step further. You need to offer parents of disabled children the same level playing field of work opportunities as those with able bodied children.
Take my case Ed. I have 4 sons and worked up until the arrival of my final son. Our world changed when this child was diagnosed as autistic. Work stopped. Caring duties and the pittance of carers Allowance (currently £59pw) kicked in big time. My husband went self employed to juggle all the interventions and drive us to medical appointments, therapy appointments and education appointments. Outside of this, we realised our son would only maximise his life chances with expert input.. And that input was just us, his parents while he was under 5. Granted he is nearly 15 and Blair was in the first stages of his childcare policies back in 1999, but there was no choice.
I would have thought by now, 2013, there would be choice for parents of disabled children but sadly no. We are locked into 24/7 care on £59pw Carers allowance with little respite and no time to find an employer who will be flexible enough to let us run home in an emergency, or more importantly a low cost childcare provider who has expertise in dealing with our sons particular disability.
Sure there are general childminders, but who is going to take on a disabled child who needs 1-1 care in many circumstances when they can take on 6 children? If you find a childminder who is willing, do they have experience and a qualification in dealing with a disabled child? Do they have experience of looking after a child with your disabled child's disability? Will they charge the same as they do for looking after an able bodied child? Most probably not.
Nurseries. They do not provide anywhere near the 1-1 provision a disabled child needs. And with this government watering down the staff to child ratio , many parents of disabled children will be alarmed there could be as many as 8 children to 1 staff member.
The care doesn't change when the disabled child hits 5. Some are in mainstream school, others in special schools. Call outs to attend meltdowns or the like are common. Would an employer understand? Childcare for able bodied children tends to end at 11/12 years of age on entry to High School. Childcare doesn't end there for parents of disabled children. We need that care to continue to even post 18+. It is expensive and scarce. We parents are rightly more precious over our disabled children than our able bodied children, and need reassurance our disabled child will thrive in a childcare environment.
So Ed I implore you. Be bold, be radical. You would be the first party leader to offer disabled children's parents an opportunity to escape poverty, fulfil their potential, not be viewed entirely as the parent of a disabled child but as individuals who have far more talent than the paltry £59pw currently paid to do a caring task that saves the Government ££££££££s per year. Ed we deserve your consideration and a specific Labour Party policy on this issue. Should you gain power in 2015, be the first PM who recognises the sheer hard work caring is for a disabled child, and offer their parents peace of mind, and low cost affordable specialised childcare. It is time the Labour childcare policy was inclusive. Now is the time to do it.