Some 91% of unemployed parents of disabled children want to work, but lack of suitable childcare and flexible work options are holding them back, according to research by Working Families which is published today.
The survey of over a thousand parents also found that 64% of parents in work had declined promotion or accepted demotion to balance care and work. Yet flexibility around the time of diagnosis and at other crisis points, together with affordable childcare, could prevent many parents from opting out of the labour market.
Of the 73% who were in paid work:
– Only 38% worked for 30 hours or more.
– 61% had changed or tried to change their pattern of work while 56% had reduced or tried to reduce their hours, in order to manage their caring responsibilities.
– 64% had refrained from seeking promotion, declined promotion or accepted demotion in order to balance caring and paid work.
Of the 27% of respondents not in paid work:
– 82% had given up work in order to care for their disabled children.
– 83% felt that finding suitable childcare was the main barrier to paid work.
– Over 50% had been unemployed for at least six years and were thus unlikely to get back into work.
Some 91% would like to undertake paid work at some level.
Sarah Jackson, CEO of Working Families, said: “There is often an assumption that parents of disabled children will not be in work, which affects the way they are treated by the services around them. The sheer cost of childcare means that even if work is flexible enough to cope with the demands of appointments, it is difficult to make work pay, even when you want it to.”
She went on to explain that: “Our research shows there is a lack of suitable childcare, flexible working options, and financial incentives to work. These factors, together with the higher costs of childcare, all conspire to force parents of disabled children to reduce their hours, accept less well paid work or opt out of the labour market altogether. This is not only detrimental to the welfare of these families but it also represents a loss of skills to employers and a cost to the wider economy through loss of tax revenues and additional benefit payments.”
Working Families is calling for action by Government, by employers and by service providers to acknowledge that parents of disabled children want to and do work alongside their caring responsibilities and for measures to address the availability and affordability of suitable childcare and to increase the flexibility of work options. It says that as a matter of priority, systems need to be put in place to support parents at the point of diagnosis or crisis and thus enable them to remain in work.
Jackson said: “From the pattern of employment amongst parents of disabled children it is clear that ‘staying put’ is a more realistic option than ‘getting back’.”