You are here: News Disabled children failed by childcare system at every step

A cross party inquiry today reveals widespread failures for disabled children across the childcare system. MPs and Peers are calling for all parties to address the serious faults at the heart of our childcare system which has led to thousands of disabled children - from toddlers to teenagers - missing out on vital education and social opportunities.

The Parliamentary Inquiry into Childcare for Disabled Children found that:

  • 41% of families with disabled children aged three and four are unable to access the full 15 hours free entitlement to childcare and early years education 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

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
There is confusion among local authorities, nurseries and schools about what their duties are in providing childcare for disabled children.

To begin to tackle some of these key issues, the Inquiry is calling on all parties to commit to developing a coherent policy to improve access to affordable, accessible, and appropriate childcare for all children.

Robert Buckland MP and co-chair of the Parliamentary Inquiry said:

“Through our Inquiry we heard from disabled young people and their families that they are experiencing a childcare crisis. This is despite huge progress in making childcare more affordable and improving choice for other families. “Piecemeal policies over a decade have led to confusion among local authorities and childcare providers about their duties to provide childcare for disabled children. We need one coherent policy to improve access to childcare for disabled children and this is the time to take action. Ahead of the next general election all political parties must commit to tackling the lack of affordable and quality childcare for disabled children once and for all.”

Pat Glass MP and co-chair of the Parliamentary Inquiry said:

“I have been touched by the stories we’ve heard from parents throughout the Inquiry, about their struggles to find nurseries that would accept their children and being turned away from mainstream nurseries simply because their child had a disability. Providers must not be able to get away with this. We’re calling on the Government to make sure that providersdemonstrate what reasonable adjustments they have made for disabled children in order to receive an “Outstanding” from Ofsted.”

Children’s Commissioner for England, Dr Maggie Atkinson said:

“All Children and young people have a right, under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to education and to opportunities to socialise with other children, play and have fun. The findings of this Inquiry show that too many disabled children and young people are missing out on these. “Of further concern, is the fact that only one quarter of local authorities say they have enough childcare for disabled children. This becomes more acute for older disabled children.”

The Parliamentary Inquiry has been supported by Every Disabled Child Matters, Family and Childcare Trust, Contact a Family and Working Families.

Contact: Mark Bou Mansour, Communications and Campaigns Manager. Telephone: 0207 940 7535, mobile: 07538 334 772, email: 

Notes to Editors

  • The Parliamentary Inquiry into childcare for disabled children was co-chaired by Robert Buckland MP and Pat Glass MP. The inquiry committee consisted of a crossbench group of MPs and Peers including Baroness Eaton, Lord Touhig, Sarah Champion MP, Alex Cunningham MP, Teresa Pearce MP and David Ward MP.
  • The Inquiry held three oral evidence sessions in June and put out a call for written evidence, which received 35 responses from organisations representing parents, providers and local authorities as well as almost 1200 responses from individual parent carers.
  • The Inquiry has published its findings in a report published today: Parliamentary Inquiry into childcare for disabled children: levelling the playing field for families with disabled children and young people

About Every Disabled Child Matters

Every Disabled Child Matters (EDCM) is the national campaign to get rights and justice for every disabled child. It is run by four leading organisations working with disabled children and their families: Contact a Family, Council for Disabled Children, Mencap and the Special Educational Consortium. Find out more at

About the Family and Childcare Trust

The Family and Childcare Trust aims to make the UK a better place for families. We are a leading national family charity in the field of policy, research and advocacy on childcare and family issues, with over 40 years’ experience. Our on-the-ground work with parents and providers informs our research and campaigns. We focus on the early years and childcare because they are crucial to boosting children’s outcomes throughout life and supporting parents to work.

About Contact a Family

Contact a Family is the only UK charity that provides information, advice and support to families with disabled children whatever their condition or disability. Last year we helped 320,000 families to access life-changing help. Visit

About Working Families

Working Families is the UK’s leading work-life balance organisation. The charity helps working parents and carers and their employers find a better balance between responsibilities at home and work. Visit