Full Guide to Managing Family Finances – Chapter 15
A special needs child needs full time care. But with quality care so expensive and hard to find, many parents are finding it cheaper to stop working in order to care for the child themselves. Is special needs childcare really so expensive? And what are the repercussions of a parent giving up work?
Giving up work to care for their special needs child There is a growing financial problem for families who have a child or children with special needs as recent research has revealed that the mothers of these children are often forced to give up their careers in order to provide full time care for their special-needs child. This can cause a large vacuum in the family finances with serious repercussions on the family budget, but as it would often be more expensive to employ a full time carer for the child than to just stay at home and lose a salary, mums and dads tend to choose the lesser of two evils. This difficulty in finding good quality child care for disabled children at an affordable price means that many mothers who are well qualified in their chosen career are taken out of the labour market to stay at home and this can have a major impact on the financial status of the family. With even average child care costing huge amounts, the costs for the care of a disabled child are often as much as eight times higher than normal. The fact is that the situation of leaving work to care for a disabled child has often been forced upon a mother who would otherwise be making a large contribution both to the family income and also to the economy of the country.
Government Help The government has tried to put in place some strategies to assist these mothers but with 85% of mothers who have a special needs child wanting to work, only a small proportion (just 16% of them) are actually in work compared with 61% of mothers of non disabled children. Even though the government have put measures in place that have made child care more accessible and have aimed to make it more affordable, these actions have not trickled down to the parents of children with special needs.
Shortfalls for child care for children with special needs range from around £330 per week for those on working tax credits and this compares very unfavourably with a figure of around £41 per week for those who require the usual kind of child care. When working out the universal credit that is available, the average family would have a shortfall of around £20 a week and families with a special needs child would be 15 times worse off with a shortfall of around £306 per week. If this were to be a short term problem, then solutions such as short term loans would be a viable option; however, this problem will probably continue far into the future, necessitating a different kind of solution. Young children with special needs require dedicated trained nursery workers of which there are only a few and older children are in dire need of support workers to help with leisure activities before and after school hours. The nurseries and clubs who can take special needs children need to offer one on one care and this is one cause of the high costs which often make childcare unavailable to mothers who wish to work. A lack of experience and training combined with the cutbacks to funding by the government means that the barriers preventing mothers from returning to work are increasing as opposed to decreasing.
Unlike other parents, mothers and fathers of a special needs child can’t share in school runs or otherwise exchange care options after or before school that ordinary parents take for granted. This means there can be no play dates or visits for tea which has the effect of marginalising the child as well as making the parents even more housebound. The government has quite rightly emphasised the need for more free child care of up to 30 hours per week in 2016 for pre-school children. However, this measure will not help the thousands of mothers and fathers of children with special needs who want to work but cannot find affordable suitably qualified people to take care of their child.