Councils should take a more flexible approach to childcare, charity says after it was revealed four out of five parents of children with complex needs struggled to access services over the summer holidays.
A survey from learning disability charity Mencap has shown 80% of parents who have a child with a learning disability struggled to access support services during the school summer holidays, and only 21% of local authorities reported having sufficient childcare for disabled children.
The majority (93%) of respondents said it was easier finding care for non-disabled children than it was for disabled children.
More than half (56%) of the carers who took part in the survey struggle to access short breaks and respite services and 7% highlighted a lack of access to portage, a home visiting educational service for pre-school children with special educational needs and disabilities.
Parents of disadvantaged children aged 2 and of all 3 and 4 years old are eligible for 15 hours of free childcare a week. However, just 40% of parents of children with a learning disability say their child is able to access the full amount.
‘For many parents of children with a learning disability this means nonstop care, 24 hours a day 7 days a week,’ Jan Tregelles, chief executive of Mencap, said.
‘Having to care for their child who may have complex needs whilst juggling their work and other demands can push many families to breaking point.’
‘Having accessible and suitable childcare on offer can be a lifeline for many families,’ he continued.
‘But, due to a lack of sufficient provision from local authorities and inflexible provision of the services that are available, we are seeing many families are unable to access services and are often left to struggle alone.
‘It is unacceptable that, despite obligations, yet again local authorities are still not doing enough to help families who are being pushed into moments of crisis.’
‘This needs to change. We need to invest in these vital services and ensure equal access to them for children with a learning disability as they can be the difference between families reaching breaking point or not,’ he added.