With the release of Coram’s Childcare Survey for 2023, we are reflecting on the current situation in the early education and childcare sector for children with SEND. Coram’s research shows that in England, just 18% of local authorities say they have sufficient places for disabled children; less than 1 in 5. Urgent change is required to ensure that children with SEND are able to reach their full potential in the early years, providing them with the foundation to thrive as they grow up.
Families of disabled children have already been hit hard by the pandemic and current cost of living crisis. The lack of early years provision for their children only exacerbates the inequalities they face. In a recent report from the Disabled Children’s Partnership (Failed and Forgotten, March 2023), 3 in 4 parent carers said they have had to give up employment (or their whole career) due to the lack of support available for their disabled child. Almost half answered that they are unable to work and are experiencing poverty. The cost of living crisis is having a huge impact on families, and the rising costs of childcare are yet another barrier faced by disabled children.
Educational outcomes for children with SEND have been low in the early years for a while; in 2018/19, 76% of children with SEND did not achieve at least the expected level across all learning goals (compared to 24% for those children with no identified needs). The vast inequalities faced by disabled children are having a detrimental effect on their future, with only 1 in 5 families feeling that they receive the support needed for their child to fulfil their potential. The decrease in available childcare places will only widen the gaps between children with SEND and their peers.
It does not come as a surprise that local authorities across the country are unable to provide suitable places for disabled children; in March 2022 the Early Years Alliance highlighted that many settings were struggling financially in regards to providing support for children with SEND. At that time 14% of early years provisions said that they expected places to be reduced going forward due to costs. The funding that many were receiving wasn’t adequate to provide the quality of care for children with SEND that they wished (87%), and 40% didn’t receive any specific funding towards SEND provision.
Urgent reform needs to happen within the childcare sector; the rising costs of childcare demonstrated in Coram’s survey are disproportionately affecting children with disabilities both through the lack of places offered, and the impact that the cost will have on many of the families’ already bleak financial situation.
Dingley’s Promise is committed to improving the future for children with SEND in the early years; with our specialist centres opening this year in new locations and our inclusion training programme ever expanding, we are working hard to build a more inclusive early education landscape that cultivates the development and potential of all children.