The government has caved in to pressure from disability charity Mencap and agreed to amend the childcare bill to cover disabled children up to the age of 18.
The bill had planned to give local authorities a duty to secure child care for non-disabled children under 14, and disabled children under 16. However, a campaign by Mencap, led by the charity’s president and cross-bench peer Lord Rix, presented evidence to show that many parents of older disabled children are unable to work because of the difficulties they face finding child care.
Research conducted by Mencap found that only one family in 20 was able to find suitable child care for a 17-year-old with a learning disability whose mother needed to work.
Currently, 84% of mothers of disabled children are out of work compared with 39% of those with non-disabled children. More than half the families with disabled children are living in, or on the margins of, poverty.
Rix, who won cross-party support for his amendment, said: “I am absolutely delighted that the government has listened to our arguments and agreed to make this improvement to the bill. This will make a huge difference to the lives of young people with a disability and their families.”
Mencap’s chief executive Jo Williams also welcomed the decision, calling it “great news”. “At the moment, childcare provision is completely inadequate for older disabled children, and we’re very pleased that the government recognises that this must change if all families are to have the opportunity to participate in the workforce,” she added.