Childcare for children with disabilities

A guide for kinship carers about finding childcare for children with disabilities or special educational needs.

Some children in kinship care for have a disability and/or special educational needs (SEN). If you care for a child with disabilities or SEN, you’re not alone.

Around 9% of children (UK Parliament) in the UK population have a disability. You may need help and support to meet the child’s needs and give them the best quality of life you can.

Here are some things to consider when looking for childcare when the child you care for has a disability or SEN.

What the law says

A child is considered to have special educational needs if they experience much more difficulty learning than others of the same age, or have a disability that affects how they interact with childcare settings. Children may experience difficulties with schoolwork, communication or behaviour. The Equality Act 2010 defines a disability as having a physical and mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out their day-to-day activities.

Councils, early years and educational settings have a duty to provide equal access to education and services for disabled children. It is against the law for any organisation to discriminate against a child on the grounds of their disability.

Support for children with special needs and disabilities (GOV.UK)

Early Years Foundation Stage

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework (GOV.UK) applies to nurseries, playgroups and childminders registered with Ofsted. These settings have to follow the EYFS framework, which makes sure the needs of children with SEND are met.

Sources of support

Your local council

All local councils provide a Local Offer for children with disabilities. Search for Local Offer and the name of your council in Google to find support. This service can signpost suitable childcare settings in your area who can help you meet the needs of the child you care for. Your council can also put you in touch with specialist support. Search for SEND or Local Offer on your local council website to find the right service for the child you look after.

Extra help from your local council

Education, health and care plans

An education, health and care (EHC) plan is designed to state and support the needs of young people with disabilities up to the age of 25. In England, you, your health or educational provider can request an EHC plan if the child you care for has complex needs. In Wales, the process is different.

Find out more about EHC assessment in England (GOV.UK)

Find out about individual development plans in Wales (SNAP Cymru)

Direct payments

If social services help to support the child you care for as a kinship carer, you may be able to apply for direct payments from your council.

Find out more about direct payments (GOV.UK)

Social care and help from government

The NHS publishes advice about social care (NHS) with information for carers and individuals. Contact, a charity supporting families with disabled children, also has this helpful guide to social care.

GOV.UK outlines the help you may be entitled to if you are the kinship carer of a disabled child. This includes help with childcare costs for children with disabilities.

Moving from children’s social care to adult social care

Once a child with a long-term health condition turns 18, they will move from children’s social care to adult social care. Typically a child will transition between the two social care services between the ages of 16 and 18.

Moving from children’s social care to adult social care (NHS)

Charities that support children with disabilities

Depending on the type of disability or need the child you care for has, you can also get in touch with charities for advice and support.

  • Carers UK helps make life better for carers
  • Contact supports families with disabled children and helps families take action for others (see their useful guide to early years support)
  • Family Fund offers grants to families supporting children with disabilities
  • Snap Cymru supports inclusive education for children and young people with special educational needs, additional learning needs and disabilities in Wales

Support from Kinship

Here at Kinship, we offer a range of free support for all kinship carers, including workshops, online advice and information, and peer support groups.

Contact our advice service to speak to an adviser or book an appointment.