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Thursday, 6 January 2011

Childcare for a disabled child

When it comes to childcare for a disabled child, a lot of the considerations are the same as for any other child. There are a few extra things to think about, such as specialist training or a child's medical needs. Find out about different types of childcare.

Things to consider

Whatever your child's age, ability or circumstances, all parents would probably think about these issues:

  • what sort of childcare would work best for your family - a childminder, nursery or after-school care?
  • is the carer Ofsted registered?
  • will activities be appropriate for your child's ability?
  • is the carer/setting safe, friendly and do you think your child will be happy in the environment?

You may also need to think about questions like:

  • does the carer have experience in looking after a child with a similar disability, and if not, would they be happy for you to show them what is needed?
  • how much specialist care does your child need, and is appropriate training available locally?
  • does your child have therapy or appointments that they need to go to in the time they will be cared for, and can your playgroup, nursery or school take your child to these appointments?

Get the best from childcare

You are the expert on your child. To get the best from childcare:

  • give the carer clear and detailed information about your child's likes and dislikes, needs, medication and appointments
  • take your time and visit the childminder, pre-school/playgroup or nursery - more than once if you want to
  • agree a 'settling-in' period where you leave your child for short periods of time until you are comfortable to leave for the entire session
  • if you are on the Early Support programme and have a Family File, show this to the carer

Children with medical needs

Does the carer need specialist training or equipment? Often carers need specific training to give medication.

If you have been shown how to give medication to your child by your doctor, nurse or health visitor, you can ask the same person to give this training to your child's new carer.

Your social worker or area special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) should be able to tell you more.

Family Information Services and early education

Your local Family Information Service has details about the full range of childcare and early education opportunities in your local area. They may also be able to tell you about other specialist services that your child may need because of their disability, such as the Early Support programme. 

All children over three years old are entitled to a free part-time place in an early years setting, for example a nursery, before they transfer to full-time school.

If you want full-time daycare, you may be able to pay for extra hours so that you can start or return to work or take a break from your caring responsibilities.

You can find childcare providers in your area online. Just type in your postcode or town to find childminders, crèches, nurseries, out of school care, holiday care and pre-school care local to you.

Sure Start Children's Centres

Sure Start Children's Centres bring together a number of services in one place and often include health services and childcare for children with special needs.

Day nurseries

Local authority nurseries are usually for children up to five years old. Places are usually given to those children who need them most.

Talk to your social worker to see if there is a place in your local authority nursery. You may be offered a free part-time place where you can pay the extra to make it up to a full-time place, if you want to.

You may also be able to find a place for your child at a private day nursery.

Pre-schools or playgroups

Pre-schools provide care and early education for children aged between three and five years old. Sessions often last from two and a half hours to four hours, though some are now beginning to offer full-time places. Most are open during term time only, but check locally to see what is available near you. 

As with day nurseries, free part-time early education places are normally available and additional support may be provided for disabled children through the area SENCO.

Out-of-school clubs

There are many out of school clubs and some schools are becoming 'extended schools', which offer breakfast clubs (from 8.00 am) and after school clubs (typically until 6.00 pm). Find out from your child's school if these clubs are available.


Childminders look after children in the childminder's own home. They are usually parents themselves and may have cared for a disabled child before. 

Visit the childminder to see the environment and whether the other children are happy playing. Talk to the childminder about the sort of activities they do and the care your child needs. You can use a childminder for all-day or before- or after-school care.

Home childcarers

Home childcarers are registered childminders who come to look after your child in your home. This service has recently been introduced in some areas.

Find out about before- and after-school childcare locally

The following link will let you enter details of where you live and then take you to your local council website where you can find out more about before- and after-school childcare in your local area. Please note that this service is only available for councils in England.


The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 sets out two main duties for childcare providers:

  • not to treat a disabled child 'less favourably'
  • to make 'reasonable adjustments' for disabled children

Discussing your child's needs with the childcare provider can often lead to a better understanding of how these needs can be managed. You may wish to include, for example, an occupational therapist or psychologist.

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