Many parents with disabled children forced to give up work for caring

Parents who have children with special educational needs or disabilities are struggling to work because of their caring duties.

Thursday, 16th May 2019, 11:43 am
Updated Thursday, 16th May 2019, 2:09 pm
Many parents with disabled children are forced to give up work for caring

Sheffield Parent Carer Forum says many parents have been forced to give up work to care for their child but they are ‘doubly disadvantaged’ because they miss out on social contact with co-workers and have less money for leisure activities.

The Forum gathered feedback from more than 700 parents of children and young people, aged up to 25, with special educational needs and/or disabilities for its State of Sheffield report.

It found only 17 per cent were managing to work full time and just over 40 per cent were working part-time.

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The survey shows:

* 37 per cent of parents had given up work to cope with their caring responsibilities

* 36 per cent had reduced their hours

* 26 per cent had taken a less challenging job

Parents said having to take frequent time off due to their child’s medical needs and a lack of time or energy were the biggest problems.

One parent said: “I tried flexible working initially but the requirements in caring for my child (including administration, meetings, assessments) meant I could not continue working. There was not enough hours in the day.

“It was extremely stressful and I had little support and felt isolated. The initial process also coincided with caring for my elderly parent with dementia and cancer.

It was an extremely difficult time all round. My priority had to be caring for my loved ones, whilst attempting to work. It was an impossible position and it impacted on my own health and well-being.”

Some parents struggled as their children often had unscheduled time off school or only attended school or college on a part-time basis.

Another parent said: “He is barely at school. Within an hour on Monday I was rung to collect my son, and now he is excluded until Friday. It is impossible to keep any job as school cannot provide what he needs so exclude him constantly.”

Childcare was also a major issue. Almost 40 per cent of parents said that they couldn’t find suitable childcare and a quarter said they couldn’t afford the childcare for their child with SEND.

The report says: “Parents who give up work can become very isolated. Parents who had given up work in order to cope with their caring responsibilities are doubly disadvantaged, as they miss out on social contacts with co-workers and have less money to participate in leisure activities.

“Parents of non-disabled children often accept that they may need to work for little financial gain during the toddler years in order to improve their long-term career prospects.

“For parents of disabled children, however, the situation does not tend to improve over time, as their children may still need childcare right through secondary school.

“Childcare for disabled teenagers is scarce and can be expensive, making work an uneconomical option for many parents.”

More parents are working than in 2014 but the report says: “It is possible to that benefit cuts are forcing more parents to work.

“We found that fewer parents were in receipt of means tested benefits than five years ago (45 per cent in 2019, compared to 57 per cent in 2014).

“This could be a consequence of cuts and restrictions to benefit entitlements, parents increasing their earnings and/or work hours, or both.”

The full report can be read here: