Belfast Telegraph

Lack of disability childcare 'keeping parents from work'

By Amanda Poole

Parents of children with disabilities and special needs are being kept from the workplace because of inadequate childcare provision, according to a report.

The Childcare for All? report due to be published tomorrow by the Employers For Childcare Charitable Group reveals there is a limited supply of suitable childcare provision in Northern Ireland, meaning many parents of disabled children cannot return to work.

The survey of parents indicates 70% are not in employment because of caring responsibilities relating to their children.

Some 94% of parents find school holiday periods to be the most difficult time of the year to access childcare and the report illustrates in 66% of cases childcare is through informal provision, with grandparents being the most common choice.

Sarah Hillis and her husband Sam, from Lisburn, have had to give up work to become full-time carers because of the lack of support available.

Their three children Luke, Hope and Imogen were all born prematurely and each requires specialist assistance.

Luke (12) has attention deficit disorder and is on the autistic spectrum.

Hope (4) has extremely complex medical needs, and Imogen (2) has chronic lung disease and developmental delay.

Mrs Hillis said: "I don't think people understand how much extra work is required for children with a disability.

"There is a lack of additional support as my children do not fit a specific bracket.

"There is Down's syndrome and autism support groups, but no support for those who fall outside these brackets.

"There should be better training for childminders, specialist nurseries or the ability to get children who need specialist support into a private nursery."

Background

The Employers For Childcare Charitable Group makes it easier for parents with dependent children to get into work and to stay in work. It addresses childcare as an economic and labour market issue and charitable activity focuses on providing advice and information services. Its main activity is the Childcare Information Service which is delivered free of charge.

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