A new guide, written by legal experts Irwin Mitchell and charities Contact a Family, Every Disabled Child Matters and the Family and Childcare Trust, will help parents with disabled children seek redress if the childcare system fails them. It forms part of the charities’ new campaign ‘Levelling the Playing Field’, calling for equal access to childcare for disabled children.  

The guide, Helping you access free childcare for your 2, 3 and 4 year old, will make it easier for parents with disabled children to understand their rights around the government’s free early education offer and help them challenge decisions made by local authorities and childcare providers that results in their child being denied access to free childcare.

Its publication follows recent government proposals to extend its free early years’ education offer to working parents and is published one year after an independent Parliamentary Inquiry concluded that families with disabled children are being failed by childcare at every step.

Amanda Batten, CEO of Contact a Family, says: “We welcome the current political focus on childcare generally but disabled children continue to be sidelined. Disabled pre-schoolers are missing out on the early education and social opportunities enjoyed by their non-disabled peers and too many of their parents are being denied the opportunity to work because suitable childcare simply isn’t available. Our new guide is a first step towards levelling the playing field by helping parents understand their rights and showing them what they can do if the system lets them down.

“We will continue to campaign for the government to urgently address the inequality in childcare that currently exist. Families with disabled children must be given the same consideration in the childcare debate and have equal access to childcare.”

Stacie Lewis from London is mum to May who has Cerebral Palsy and says: “When I wanted to return to work a year after May’s birth it should have been straightforward. It was anything but. Finding childcare was a nightmare. It was a challenge, true – but it was also heartbreaking. It was very early in my daughter’s life to learn that many people would only pay lip-service when it came to helping her.”

The coalition of charities are also appealing to families with disabled children under five years old to take part in a short survey about their access to the free early education offer. The findings will be used to build up a national picture of the barriers faced by families.