Thursday, 9 March 2017

30 hours free childcare - completely useless for my autistic son

Nursery hand prints

When Anthony turned three years old he got 15 hours of free childcare a week.  Fantastic.  When David turned three years old, he should have been entitled to the same amount.  But that's not what he got. He got seven.  David only got seven hours because he has autism, because he has additional needs. Looking back, I can't believe I let it happen.

I can't believe that even for a moment, I let my autistic son's education be cut before he was even of school age.  What about if that had been now? The UK Government have just announced that they are increasing free childcare for three and four year olds to 30 hours a week... would David have benefitted from this?  Answer, I don't think he'd even get close.

Eh?  Really?  Surely every child over the age of three (or the term after they turned three) is entitled to 15 hours of free childcare? And that's just being extended to 30 hours in the Chancellor's budget?  What am I on about?

Well, Anthony and David were both diagnosed with autism before they were four years old.  When it became obvious that Anthony needed support to go to nursery and pre-school, the nursery applied to our council for some special educational needs early years funding that could pay for an extra member of staff to help him.  At the time you could apply for 15 hours worth of funding - which makes sense. If a child needs 1:1 support, then they need it all the time.

But in the three years since Anthony accessed his 15 hours of free childcare, local budgets had been cut for special educational needs in early years and the number of children needing this support had increased significantly.  The council simply didn't have enough money to offer 15 hours of support to kids with special needs so they could get help during their 15 hours in pre-school.

Despite David's difficulties being far greater than his brother's he could only get the maximum now available - seven hours.  David was three years old but he didn't speak a single word, he couldn't communicate at all.  Sometimes he lashed out.  Other kids got the sharp end of his frustration.

He needed support to interact with anyone, he had sensory needs, he needed help to sit when he should, eat when he should and let's not talk about how late his toilet training was.  The nursery simply couldn't have David without a dedicated assistant to care for him.

The result, David only got seven free hours of childcare a week, less than his more able peers.  And even then, there was no funding for extra training, so the staff didn't always know how to help him.   Even other mums thought it was wrong.

30 hours of free childcare sounds great - but it's only good for families like ours if the support exists so their children can access it.  Otherwise, it's pretty useless.

Our Inclusive Home


  1. I could not agree more. We faced this too until my son got a specialist nursery place.

    1. I think it's a really serious problem here at least. You don't know about it unless you've been there and by the time its sorted out, your child has been missing out when arguably they are some of the kids and families that need it the most.

  2. I hadn't realised this happened, but I am totally with you, it's grossly unfair as every child should have the same right to early education and support. Thanks for sharing with #WotW

  3. Now that's something they don't mention. It doesn't seem fair. Fingers crossed that other measures happen that help, although that might be too late for his time at pre-school. #wotw

  4. Sadly yet another way in which our society lets us down. #WotW

  5. That sounds terribly unfair and discriminatory. Really, that should not be able to happen. I understand our frustration and I hope you manage to successfully fight for more support.

  6. It should definitely be available to all. Sadly even without any sort of special educational needs a lot of families will not benefit from the 30 hours as many Nurseries will not be able to afford to offer it. Either that, or the Nurseries will start charging separately for meals and snacks in order to supplement the limited funding.

  7. I often similar thoughts about my daughter's early days. If we had known then what we know now, what would we do differently. I think though the sad fact is that at that point parents aren't equipped to deal with the system and authorities know it. One day there will be change. There has to be. Thank you so much for sharing such an important post with us at #PostsFromTheHeart.

  8. oh no - it really should be available to all. im really hoping it will be available for my little one.
    Thanks for linking to #ablogginggoodtime

  9. Wow I had no idea they could do that! We haven't made use of any of the childcare system yet but it seems like they make it pretty hard to get what you're entitled to any way! It's so hard to fight the system when you're struggling. Lovely post xx #postfromtheheart

  10. Oh gosh! I didn't know this was happening!
    We were so lucky that EJ had full 1:1 support for her full 15 hours at nursery a couple of years ago.
    This is just awful!
    Thank you so much for linking up to my accessibility stories, access to education is vital! #AccessLinky

  11. Thanks for highlighting an issue for so many families with special needs children.#postsfromtheheart

  12. We struggled, but eventually we now do get 15 hours of one to one for E. it took nearly a year and he almost had to leave nursery though. It is absolutely shocking that this level of discrimination exists in our society, and yet it passes with barely anyone noticing! #postsfromtheheart #spectrumsunday

  13. we grew so frustrated with the education authority with our youngest child, we withdrew him and sent him to private school, we suspected he was dyslexic at around the age of 5 and by the time he was 6-7 he was diagnosed with Attachment disorder, the psychiatrists recommendation was boarding school where he could have consistency and all the support he needed with his learning and other issues linked to his behaviour, he thrived in boarding school and we took him out ages 11 for 2 years when we moved to South Africa, he declined fairly quickly so he went back to the UK and finishes his schooling this year, aged 18. He is a different child/adult now. Having worked in education and support in the UK, I knew that if we could afford private school it would be the best thing for him and us as a family.
    I wanted to also thank you for your comment on my blog post, we had many friends with disabled children around the same age as our daughter and they were very critical of our choice to find a care home, they now say in hindsight that they should've done the same thing at an earlier age, because they are facing terrible troubles trying to house a now adult child. Either way isn't easy, but just sometimes you know what is best and when the time is right. We've been critised for both our decisions for the 2 of our children with additional needs and the only guilt we feel with the youngest is that we couldn't afford to give the middle 3 children the same opportunities with their education, but it did mean as a family we could focus our time on all them much easier. Sorry for waffling, am off now. :-)

  14. I feel like society really lets down people who are not neuro-typical and it makes me angry. #PostsFromTheHeart

  15. Oh My Days, I had no idea about this! Joseph was diagnosed after we stopped using the free hours but I know that was difficult anyway to use at the time, it was so inflexible. Why is everything made so much harder for us parents of children with autism? #SpectrumSunday

  16. The right support makes such a difference, for everyone. The child, the family, other children in the setting and the teachers. It is heartbreaking to read when a child is not able to access an educational setting because of a lack of support. #spectrumSunday

  17. If my son didn't get his support at school, he wouldn't be in mainstream. End of. Sorry to hear of your struggles. X


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