Choosing childcare for a disabled child

by Pip Dorkings, Daycare Trust. Choosing the right childcare can be challenging if your child has a disability.

mother and child


The Early Support Programme is available for parents of very young children and helps to ensure that you receive the correct help. Log on to the Department for Education website for more information.

Speak to your area's Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) when you begin looking for childcare. They are usually based within the Family Information Service (FIS) and can give you support whilst you are finding childcare.

They should know which providers are skilled at working with children with disabilities and should be able to advise on funding.

Your FIS will hold details of all registered childcare in your area. You can find details of your FIS on the parent information pages on the Daycare Trust website.

How CBeebies can help

CBeebies has many programmes that feature childcare, such as the childminder Granny Murray in Me Too, or Miss Hoolie and the kids in the nursery in Balamory.

You can watch these programmes with your child and talk about what is happening and who is taking care of the children while their mums and dads are busy working.

Explain to your child that the children are dropped off in the morning and then collected later in the day.

How to make a magic moment

Spending a few hours each week or month helping out at your childcare setting - with things like reading, art and craft, cooking or outings - can be great for you and your child. It also helps to foster a great relationship with your childcare provider.

You don't have to be brilliantly skilled, just enthusiastic - your child will be so proud to have you there!

Extra information

It's worth considering what sort of childcare you want. Do you want your child to be cared for at home, in a group setting (such as a nursery) or in another person's home with a childminder?

There are many different types of childcare so it's a good idea to think about what would suit your family best.

For details about all types of childcare and the opportunities they provide, visit the parent information pages on the Daycare Trust website.

When you have a short list, try to visit as many as possible. Have a list of questions ready and try to keep these in mind. For example, you might want to consider the following:

  • Do you get a warm welcome when you arrive?
  • Are the children happy?
  • What experience/training do the staff have of working with children with disabilities?
  • How will they communicate with you about your child's needs and progress?
  • How will they ensure that your child has the same play and learning opportunities as other children?

Children benefit most from high quality childcare. Wherever possible, use childcare that has been rated good or outstanding by Ofsted and remember to check references and speak to other parents who have used childcare.

Paying for childcare

There is a range of financial support available to pay for childcare. This includes:

  • The free Early Years entitlement which gives all three and four year olds - and some two year olds - 15 hours of free childcare per week
  • The childcare element of Working Tax Credit
  • Employer-supported childcare schemes, such as childcare vouchers
  • Disability Living Allowance and Direct payments.

For further information, take a look at the 'Paying for childcare' pages on the Daycare Trust website.

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Expert opinion

Choosing the right childcare is hard for any parent. If you have a disabled child, the challenge of finding and paying for childcare is even more difficult.

Parents of disabled children often tell us there is a lack of information, inconsistency in service provision and that they are being charged extra for childcare for their disabled child.

More investment is needed, but there is help and support available and we urge parents to take it up.

Kate Groucutt, Daycare Trust Policy & Research Director.

Top tips

  • Speak to the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) at your local authority or childcare provider.Talk to other parents of disabled children - they are a great source of wisdom and support.Start looking for childcare early. It might take you a while to find what you're looking for.Prepare your child for their first day there by showing them the setting and explaining who will care for them.