Nursery

Welcome nursery people!

Posted on Jun 12, 2015 | 0 comments

Welcome nursery people!

Yesterday, I gave a speech at the National Day Nursery Association’s national conference. And yes, when I was dropped off by the taxi in front of this sports arena that I’m assuming seats tens of thousands, I did think, “What the hell am I doing here?” Thankfully, I wasn’t centre-pitch delivering my speech to a rugby ground of thousands, but a sedate conference room of hundreds. For those of you who saw me ramble through my speech and came here to read more about our trials and successes with nursery, I bring you this easily accessible list of previous posts that may interest you: Did they allow your special needs kiddie into nursery? Searching for a nursery – links to all the posts documenting our struggle to get May into nursery We work! (We do if you’d let us) – about how difficult it is for mothers of disabled children to return to work It was an honour to speak to the industry. If we are going to get more disabled children in nurseries, than working directly with nurseries to enable them to provide that service is key. It isn’t easy for them, especially when the government is changing the goal posts all the time and, importantly, the funding. But, it is very possible. Sometimes as easy as applying for charity funding for a ramp so that a wheelchair can access the building. It could be that simple and only needs a bit of imagination and heart, something I know childcare providers already provide in abundance. Finally… direct from parents’ mouths (or keyboards) from my Mama Lewis Facebook page, some positive stories about how nurseries worked with their children: Our nursery were amazing. They really took to my son and all his many disabilities. They were so positive about doing his therapies with him and also allowing him to be a little boy. Messy play being outside, water play and joining in with the other children. The only issue was funding… I loved the nursery staff and was very sad when it came time to go to school! Nursery can be so positive for our children and I think people need to remember they aren’t just tricky to look after/ manage but actually give a lot back too. Just like any other child.   We had a great experience, staff were keen to learn, were diligent about incorporating the necessary exercises, equipment and play therapy into his day, but kept him integrated as much as possible. We initially had difficulties with seating as local authority refused to supply a seat as he was under school age so apparently unnecessary for him to be at nursery (my mortgage provider would beg to differ!). We ended up funding a seat through a charity and it made a huge difference to his ability to integrate (ie he could now sit with the other children for lunch instead go being stuck in a highchair), plus being properly supported meant he could focus on his hand use etc. The nursery were great with storing & using equipment – at one stage he had 2 walkers! I completely credit the nursery for his starting mainstream school last September – we would never have had the space, time, and energy that he needed, and with anASD diagnosis on top, the structured routine. Being around the other children boosted his social and communication skills too. We weren’t charged any extra but the nursery did get 1-1 funding eventually from the LA. He went from 14 months up to school age, at 14 months couldn’t sit, talk, feed himself etc, by the time he...

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The report is clear: disabled children’s rights are being compromised

Posted on Jul 13, 2014 | 3 comments

The report is clear: disabled children’s rights are being compromised

This week, I attended the launch of the Parliamentary report into childcare for disabled children. Chaired by MPs Robert Buckland and Pat Glass, it took into consideration extensive research by Contact a Family and the personal evidence of parents, local councils and education providers. The report is stark reading. The statistics are truly awful. Children are being denied a right to an education and play, and this goes against the UN Convention on the Rights of Children, not to mention our own British laws. In short, it is illegal. On the night, I was asked to speak again. I pointed out the short-term gains of not funding these children, and explained how early intervention was key to May not being hospitalised on a regular basis now. (Her attendance at school this year, I am very proud to say, was over 98%. That is one healthy girl. Could I say the same if she hadn’t learned to eat properly as her nursery taught her? Or, if there hadn’t been trained staff working with her, doing stretches while I was at work?) I said to the group of MPs, Peers, charities and fellow parents, “These statistics should horrify us.” Here is a summary: 41% of families with disabled children age 3 and 4 can’t access their 15 hours of free early years education.  72% of families with disabled children cut back or give up work because of childcare problems 86% of families of disabled children who use childcare pay above average* In this last point, I was surprised — the numbers were even worse than I have reported earlier. Parents pay between 8 and 14x more than other families. You can download the report yourself here: Parliamentary Inquiry into childcare for disabled children. I want to commend the women who fight this alongside me. Raising a disabled child can feel like a very lonely prospect when you struggle for what you know are the basic rights your child should have, like an education. It was an honour to speak alongside Katherine Kowaliski of Orange this Way, Hannah Postgate (and her daughter Rosy) of Rosy & Bo, Jane McCready (and her son Johnny), Jennie of Premmediations and the very impressive Sam Sillars who spoke using an adapted communication board. She blew me away. This experience has renewed my belief in politics, the force of women and the impact our government can make on the lives of vulnerable people. On Monday, the Childcare Payments Bill has a second reading in Parliament and I hope that our persistence will mean it will include more benefits for families with disabled children. *All the statistics here are from the Parliamentary Inquiry into childcare for disabled...

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Are disabled children being denied their right to an education?

Posted on Jul 3, 2014 | 7 comments

Are disabled children being denied their right to an education?

May and I appear in The Independent today defending disabled children’s right to early years education. The article takes much from the speech I gave in Parliament, and thus the reason why I didn’t publish the speech earlier. The title of the article is ‘Are disabled children being refused the right to an early years education?‘ — but it could have easily have read ‘Are the mothers of disabled children being refused their basic right to work?’ The issues go hand in hand. Here is the article. You can see it in full on The Independent’s website. Photo by Susannah Ireland. Are disabled children being refused the right to an early years education? Five years ago, I stood in the reception of our local primary. Rated “outstanding” by Ofsted, I hoped they would take my daughter into their attached Sure Start nursery. They not only refused to take her, they refused even to show us around. My daughter was one year old with gorgeous rolls of podge and an infectious laugh. She was also disabled. According to the Department for Work and Pensions, there are 800,000 families in the UK with a disabled child. But research by the Papworth Trust has revealed that only 16 per cent of women with disabled children can return to work – and even then only 3 per cent full-time – compared to 61 per cent of mothers who don’t have disabled children. These children are being refused the right to an early years education and, as a result, their mothers are being denied their basic right to work and provide for their families. When my daughter, May, was born severely disabled I wouldn’t have called myself lucky. I would now. Unlike 84 per cent of women like me, I wasn’t forced out of my job. Five years ago, I wrote about my daughter for The Independent. “May is a delightful baby… she is an absolute pleasure. She remains unaware of the dire predictions for her future. Rather than lie in her cot, totally unresponsive, she took up Olympic-level bouncing and gorgeous squeals of pleasure at the sound of birdsong.” Naively, I thought other people would see her potential, too. In the end, we had the demoralising experience of more than 50 nurseries and childminders refusing to take her. There is no statutory requirement for even state providers of childcare to take disabled children, so they had no issue turning us away. The primary that refused to show us around advertised that they prioritised special needs for admission. I asked for a copy of this admission policy but they admitted there wasn’t one. They made us jump through hoops for months and then, when pressed, told us prioritising May would be “unfair on other parents”. As an “outstanding” school, they made the outrageous claim that May only needed to attend nursery so I could work, not for any developmental benefit. Finally, May was accepted at another nursery. Then, a month before I was meant to return to work, that nursery pretended they hadn’t accepted her. They put her on a waiting list that we later discovered didn’t exist. She was the only one on it and she never came off. I can remember days on the phone sobbing, as I literally begged nurseries to take her so that I wouldn’t lose my job. When I spoke to my local council about it, they treated my return to work as frivolous. In contrast to endless political rhetoric about how mothers should return to work, these Government officials fought us every step of the way. They...

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They invited WHO to Parliament? (Hint: You know her.)

Posted on Jun 25, 2014 | 6 comments

They invited WHO to Parliament? (Hint: You know her.)

It is a terrible thing for a child to be born with one burden – their disability – and find they are more encumbered by another, our exclusion. Last week, I was invited to Parliament to give evidence about why finding childcare for disabled children is so difficult.   

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Today I’ll be speaking at Parliament about this…

Posted on Jun 17, 2014 | 6 comments

Today I’ll be speaking at Parliament about this…

Disabled children are almost completely denied child care in Britain. That means their mothers can not return to work. That means they are denied the access to early years education that is a right for every other child in the country. These children cost more; they take more time, more supervision, more training and even changes to the infrastructure of buildings. At this time, the government does not provide extra funding which leaves families like mine scrambling for child care and often needing to quit their jobs as a result. It is a human rights issue that is seriously putting children and specifically their mothers at a disadvantage. Here are the results of a recent survey of over 2,000 families by charity Contact a Family on this issue:   I would contend that this is a human right issue, not only for children who are denied childcare but for their mothers who are denied access to employment. Have you had issues with child care? Share with me and I may be able to squeeze your story in alongside mine today before government....

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