We ran a guest post from MrBoosMum a little while ago about the the launch of the Report of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Childcare for Disabled Children.
Parents of children with SEND more often than not have to give up hard-won careers to stay at home and care for their children because there are no facilities available to provide appropriate child care. Why should having a child with a disability mean that one or both parents have to sacrifice their income because their children are excluded from accessing childcare? And with the new Education, Health and Care Plan starting at birth, this area is even more important to get right so that every family has the opportunity to do what is right for them.
Kathryn Stinton read the article with interest as someone who delivers early years training around the country. Practitioners were telling her that it's becoming more difficult to access funding to provide additional support and/or resources for children attending with SEND. This is for children with emerging needs or those who haven't yet begun the lengthy process of EHCP assessments. In fact, one Local Authority is rumoured to be cutting this funding completely.
Fired up, Kathryn has started a campaign to ask early years practitioners, parents and professionals to contact the Department for Education as well as their MP and Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (don't forget that election coming - USE YOUR VOTE!) to raise awareness of the lack of additional funding for children with SEND in the early years. The link is at the end of the article that Kathryn has written here for Special Needs Jungle about it.
Campaign for childcare choices for families with disabled children in the early years - Kathryn Stinton
My campaign began because as a trainer of SENCOs working in pre-schools, I was hearing that funding for children with identified and emerging SEND (without an Education, Health and Care Plan) was becoming more difficult to access, making it very difficult for staff to meet children’s needs. The 2014 SEND Code of Practice says:
5.59 Local Authorities must ensure that all providers delivering funded early education places meet the needs of children with SEN and disabled children. In order to do this local authorities should make sure funding arrangements for early education reflect the need to provide suitable support for these children.
It’s clear from this statement that we have a problem because providers “must” meet the needs of children with SEND but local authorities “should” make funding available and with the cuts to budgets, any funds that were available appear to becoming more and more limited. There is a complete postcode lottery for parents and providers, the following are examples of what is currently happening across England:
- Providers can apply to their Local Authority for additional funding - processes vary but funding is rarely adequate, usually temporary and in some cases non existent
- Providers fund the additional support themselves, many early years settings are struggling financially so this isn’t possible
- Providers ask parents to pay extra so they can provide additional support
- Providers struggle to meet the needs of the child/children with SEND without additional support
- Providers tell parents they cannot meet their child's needs and the child cannot attend
The July 2014 Parliamentary Inquiry into childcare for disabled children reported that 92% of parents say finding childcare for disabled children is more difficult than for non-disabled children and 83% of parents said the lack of suitable childcare was the main barrier to paid work.
After re-reading the Parliamentary inquiry into childcare for disabled children, I became increasingly frustrated as it became obvious that the inquiry had recommendations which would address the above issues. However, I couldn't seem to find out whether any of these recommendations had been actioned so I contacted the Department for Education to ask the direct question "What recommendations from the Parliamentary inquiry into childcare for disabled children have been actioned?" After three attempts, I received an answer:
" The government have accepted the recommendations and are constantly reviewing what more we can do to help support children with Special Educational Needs (SEN). The department has a number of things in place that supports providers in delivering childcare for children with SEN. The government have yet to put into practice some of the recommendations set out in the parliamentary inquiry into childcare for disabled children. However, as I am sure you will agree, getting it right and being able to offer the best support is a main priority and will take time." (See more on pages 3 and 4 here)
So, in short, none have been actioned. In my opinion I haven't received satisfactory answers to my questions so I have now written to Edward Timpson MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Familes. He recently met with Tania and Renata and you can see a copy of the letter he wrote them here. The letter also contains his address if you would like to write to him directly.
How you can help
I am asking parents, early years providers and professionals to contact their MP and the Department for Education to raise awareness of the lack of funding and childcare choices they face.
Please tell others about the campaign and contact me if you have any ideas of how we can raise the profile further. I'll write updates on my blog and on my Twitter feed @kathrynstinton2 and would be very grateful if you could let me know if you've taken part.
All parents need childcare choices, all providers need adequate funding and most importantly, all children need to have their needs met.