Both Gavin and I have full time careers. So when Orange came along, just like when B did, we needed to find childcare so that I could return to work after a short period of maternity leave.
But it turned out this wasn’t so easy.
Childcare providers just aren’t set up to be able to provide for the needs of disabled children. Unless you have the personal funds to pay for a full time nanny with nursing experience, your options are limited.
So when the Parliamentary Inquiry into Childcare for Disabled Children was launched in 2014, I contributed my experiences in writing and was asked to speak at Westminster, alongside a small group of other working parent carers, to share with the cross-party committee the challenges of maintaining a career and finding childcare for a disabled child.
The Inquiry resulted in this report, which highlighted that disabled children and working parent carers are being failed at every step of the way. According to research from Contact a Family, three quarters of mothers with disabled children are forced to quit or take a step back in their careers because they cannot find adequate childcare. Families are losing their homes because they are unable to maintain their income. Children are missing out on pre-school development. This has to change.
Since the report was published, the Government has taken one small step forward. The development of proposals for a new tax-free childcare scheme included the ability for parents with disabled children to pay in double the amount of money to the scheme, to help make childcare more affordable in recognition that childcare for disabled children can be incredibly expensive.
There remains much work to do, to make childcare settings accessible for disabled children so that they are safe, stimulating and developmentally appropriate.
What happens when children start school is just as complex. Often after-school and holiday clubs just don’t exist for disabled children. And when they get older, past the age a child would normally need supervised care, there is a huge gaping void of care provision to enable parents to work.
I am passionate about women’s ability to maintain their careers through motherhood. Having a disabled child makes this extra hard. I will campaign on this issue until the playing field is levelled.