Some 88% of unemployed parents of disabled children express a strong desire to return to work, according to research by Working Families.
The survey of over 900 parents also found that two thirds of parents in work had declined promotion or accepted demotion to balance care and work responsibilities.
Almost four out of 10 parents had given up work more than six years ago, making their return to the labour market more difficult.
Of the parents who are currently not in work 79% felt that they had no choice but to give up work at or very soon after the diagnosis of their child.
Working Families says that whilst there remains an acute shortage of quality, part-time or otherwise flexible vacancies, especially at intermediate level, parents of disabled children will struggle to return or remain in employment. 77 per cent of out of work parents agreed that finding a job with the right number of hours was a major barrier to returning to work whilst 87 per cent stated that finding a job with the right pattern of work was also a major barrier.
The research found the great majority of in-work parents described finding suitable and affordable childcare as ‘difficult’ or ‘impossible’. There is a significant lack of specialist childcare capable of meeting the sometimes complex needs of disabled children, says Working Families. Even where it is available it is often significantly more expensive than that for non-disabled children. Almost one in three of in-work parents who pay for childcare are paying more than £10 per hour – more than twice the national average cost per hour.
Working Families is calling on all political parties to:
– Establish a new, statutory right to a period of adjustment leave, to enable families to weather relatively short-term life crises such as the onset of disability of a partner, parent or child, or other major change in their caring responsibilities, without having to give up work. Cost analysis carried out for Working Families, by Oliver Wyman, the leading international consultancy firm, show that the introduction of a legal right to adjustment leave for the parents of disabled children could result in a potential annual net gain to the economy of up to £500million. Working Families believe that a six-week period of adjustment leave, paid at Living Wage levels, should be introduced as a matter of urgency.
– Adopt a flexible by default approach to job design and recruitment in the public sector, so that all jobs in central and local government are advertised on a flexible basis unless there is a specific, good business reason not to. Working Families says ministers should also act and recruit business leaders as ‘flexible working’ champions, and should encourage private sector employers to adopt the Happy to Talk Flexible Working strapline.
– Appoint a junior minister with specific responsibility for urgently driving up the national supply of suitable, good quality, and affordable childcare for disabled children.
Sarah Jackson, CEO of Working Families, said: “More needs to be done to support the parents of disabled children to either stay in work or to re-enter the workforce. Childcare has repeatedly been shown to be a major barrier to work for these parents and we call on the next Government to commit to appointing a minister with specific responsibility for urgently driving up the national supply of suitable, good quality and affordable childcare for disabled children.
“Furthermore, we have shown that the introduction of a legal right to paid adjustment leave on or soon after diagnosis of a child’s disability or special need would have a positive outcome not only on the family’s economic future but on the state’s as a whole.”