Clause 14 - Qualifying child

Part of Childcare Payments Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:30 am on 23 October 2014.

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Photo of Pat Glass Pat Glass Labour, North West Durham 11:30, 23 October 2014

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Sheridan.

I should say something about the parliamentary inquiry I conducted earlier this year into child care for disabled children, because the issue has been mentioned a couple of times already.

I spent most of my career in education, until 2010, and I was aware that there were problems on all kinds of issues for disabled children. However, I was really shocked by what I saw in that inquiry—we heard the most horrendous stories from parents. To take some of the factual stuff, it is 12 times more costly to get child care for a child who is disabled than for one who is not. Who among us can afford 12 times the cost of anything?

That, however, is just if people can find child care. The stories we heard about people trying to find places were absolutely awful, and they were not just from one sector—they were from the private and voluntary sectors, and even from some outstanding nurseries. We heard the most awful stories about outstanding maintained nurseries coming up with things such as, “Oh, I’m sorry. We can’t take your child, because we’re full,” only for the next person to come along to be told that, yes, there were places. Another reason given was, “We’re not qualified to meet your needs.” That is completely illegal, but outstanding maintained nurseries in London were saying such things to parents. There was also the usual, “We have insufficient support,” rather than, “We’ll take your child in, assess them and get support from the local authority if we need it.”

We heard stories of parents who were losing their jobs. If parents do not have child care and cannot go out to work, not only are their jobs at risk, but they are in danger of losing their homes. Parents were having to move from one part of the country to another to be near their families, who were then able to support them. We also heard of families splitting up. The figures on families who split up show that the proportion is much higher among those who have a child who is disabled than among those who do not.

For all those reasons, I urge the Minister to look at the inquiry and the report that came out of it, which makes very difficult reading. I urge the Government carefully to consider the needs of parents and families of disabled children when they look at any child care provision.