Sure Start minister to boost child care for disabled children

The government is exploring how to make it easier for parents of
disabled young children to find the child care they need to enter

Baroness Cathy Ashton, minister for the new Sure Start Unit and
for Special Needs has told 0-19 that civil servants are now working
on plans to give more financial support to disabled
children’s parents, and also to increase the supply of  child
carers who are competent to look after disabled children.

In an interview, she also said that recent government advice on
breastfeeding would have no impact on the government’s child
care policies.

The Sure Start Unit – which straddles the Department for
Education and Skills and the Department for Work and Pensions
– would not be discouraging mothers from separating from
babies under six months to go out to work, despite new Department
of Health guidance that babies should be exclusively breastfed for
the first six months.

Ashton said  families needed to make their own choices about
what was best for them.

“The Department of Health says babies do best when they
are breastfed for six months. Or fed with milk – breastmilk
is best but it’s also an issue about the introduction of

“It doesn’t mean you can’t arrange for your baby to
be cared for and given breast milk. Lots of mums do it all the

Families with disabled children have been telling the government
that its strategy for ending child poverty – getting parents
into work – won’t work for them because they
can’t find suitable child care, and where they can the cost
is too high.

Ashton said, “I’ve got some of my staff working now
on  how to support families with disabled children with the higher
costs of child care, and how to make sure the supply of people who
can support their children is available. How do we develop with our
child care industry the expertise to be able to offer parents high
quality child care for their child with special needs or a

Ashton said she was interested in hearing from people who are
looking for child care now or who have found it and had good
experiences. “We know there are childminder networks with a
focus on children with special needs who are very good, and
nurseries that are extremely good, but we need to be spreading that
good practice.”

Read the full interview in June’s 0-19, out May

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