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Choosing childcare for children with SEND

Choosing the right childcare can be a difficult decision for every parent, but it is particularly challenging if your child has a special educational need or disability (SEND). 

In this article you will find information on:

  • Finding childcare
  • What support is available for children with SEND in childcare
  • What financial help is available for childcare costs including some specifically for disabled children

Finding childcare

To find up-to-date lists of registered childcare contact the Family Information Service.  You have to pay for childcare, although depending on your families circumstances, there may be some help with cost.

Nurseries and playgroups are for children under five years old to play, learn and have fun in groups, while their parents work, study or are busy elsewhere.

A childminder is a person who looks after a child in the childminder’s own home.

Most schools offer a link to an afterschool or breakfast club to look after your child whilst you study or work.

Where your child can play whilst you are at work or studying.

What support is available for children with SEND in childcare?

All registered childcare must make arrangements to support children with SEND and make information about this available to parents.  They should have a member of staff to be their SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator).  Childminders are encouraged to identify someone to act as their SENCO.  The SENCO’s job is to advise colleagues and involve parents. 

Support for children aged 0 - 4

Staff at nurseries or playgroups or a childminder should respond quickly as they become aware of difficulties by trying new approaches, involving you and developing a plan.  This plan should state your child’s strengths, any areas of concern and explain what support they will offer eg asking advice from a speech and language therapist or a special learning programme.  Staff should agree with you when to review the plan to see how well it is working.  If after trying new approaches, and involving specialists your child is not making progress it may be time to consider an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan.  Most children with SEND do not need an EHC. 

You should be given a written summary of your child’s progress when they are aged between two and three years, and an Early Years Foundation Stage profile when your child leaves nursery to go to reception class at primary school.

The portage service is a home visiting education service for very young children aged 0 – 4 years with additional needs.  They work closely with families and services involved with your child.  They can help you understand your child’s development and offer practical strategies and help with moving into playgroup or nursery.

Support for children aged over 5

The childcare options for children aged over 5 are afterschool clubs, holiday playschemes and childminders.  Ask to speak to the SENCO, and explain your child’s needs and strategies for supporting them.

There is some limited financial support for childcare for children with SEND.

Financial support for childcare costs

For children with SEND

If you are on a low income or your 2 year old has a statement of special education needs, Education Health and Care plan or receives disability living allowance; you may be able to get 15 hours a week free childcare in term-time.

  • Vulnerable children under 5

There may be some childcare funding for vulnerable children under 5. 

  • Holiday playschemes – SEN places

Up to 5 days in Easter or summer for some children with SEND aged 5 – 11. 

  • Short Breaks

For children in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) middle or high rate.  They may receive up to 20 days of activities to support a disabled young person to have an enjoyable break away from their main carer.  This can be used for holiday playschemes, or afterschool activities.

Financial support for childcare for all children

If you have a 3 or 4 year old child in receipt of disability living allowance (DLA), their nursery or childminder could be able to get extra money to provide suitable support. 

Find out more: Disability Access Fund (DAF) 

Last updated: 12/06/18

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