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Home Waving not drowning policy objectives

Waving not drowning policy objectives

In late 2014, Working Families conducted a survey of some 900 parents of disabled children which informed the 2015 Off Balance report. The report illustrated both the extent to which such parents value the opportunity to work – for both economic and other reasons – and the enormous challenge they face in combining their especially demanding caring responsibilities with paid work.

I would love to have paid work, to allow us to do more to help our son and for ourselves as a family, but the flexibility required just isn’t available. That is why I had to give up my job.
Mother of disabled 3 year old.


I would love to get back into paid work. I get depression from being stuck at home.
Mother of disabled 7 year old.

 Key findings

  • For both in-work and out of work parents, the twin challenge of finding suitable, affordable childcare, and finding or holding on to reasonably well-paid, part-time or otherwise flexible work, remains the biggest barrier to remaining in, or re-entering, the labour market.
  • Seven out of ten parents describe finding suitable, affordable childcare as ‘very difficult’ or ‘impossible’, with only a tiny minority (six per cent) describing it as ‘quite easy’ or ‘no problem’. As many as one in two rely heavily or exclusively on ‘free’ childcare provided by family or friends. One in three of those paying for their childcare is paying more than £10 per hour.
  • Nine out of ten of those currently not in work would like to return to paid work at some level. However, four out of ten have been out of work for six years or more and, for the overwhelming majority (98 per cent), their caring responsibilities would limit the pattern of work they could undertake; two-thirds say they could work school hours only.
  • Under half of those in employment work 30 or more hours per week, and one-third are working fewer than 20 hours per week. Just over half have reduced or tried to reduce their work hours, and a similar proportion have changed or tried to change their work pattern.
  • Two-thirds of those in work have refrained from seeking promotion, declined promotion, or accepted demotion in order to be able to balance work and their caring responsibilities.

Policy recommendations

In light of these findings, we make three key policy recommendations:

  • A new, statutory right to a period of ‘adjustment leave’;
  • A ‘flexible by default’ approach to job design in the public sector; and
  • A new Minister for Disability Childcare.

Read the Off Balance: parents of disabled children and paid work report

Working Families is committed to the social model of disability. It is attitudes and the environment that disable people. It is for this reason that we refer to ‘disabled people’. An alternative viewpoint is the ‘medical model’ which locates the issues in the person themselves, which can lead medicalisation and exclusion of disabled people.

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