Home Case study – Claire and Ariella

Case study – Claire and Ariella

Claire, 48, of South East London, is mum to Ariella, 11. Claire currently works full-time. Her daughter Ariella was diagnosed with severe autism and learning disabilities when she was just over 2 years old.

Looking back, Claire says:

“I knew I wanted to keep working – and felt determined to do so. I was lucky; when Ariella was first diagnosed my employer was patient and supportive, especially around the time off I needed.”

Because she works in the financial services industry – where there is often an expectation staff will work longer than their contracted hours – her employer agreed to officially ring-fence her hours to 9am-5pm, helping ensure Claire could spend more time with Ariella. Reflecting on this time, Claire says:

“It was quite difficult at first, getting in on time and going home on time. I work in IT, in financial services, which tends to be male dominated. I sometimes felt guilty and uncomfortable being the first out the door. But things have improved in recent years.”

One of the toughest times for Claire and her partner was when Ariella started reception in a mainstream school. The school found it very difficult to accommodate Ariella’s special needs – and Claire and her partner were going to collect Ariella at various periods during the school day almost every day during that time. Ariella then started Year 1 in a special school, where she got on much better. Looking back, Claire says:

“My employer was really understanding and accommodating. Our family weathered that storm and things settled down again. If my employer had been hostile I might have left – leaving us in financial difficulty – and me feeling cut off without the relatively sane environment at work which can be a lifeline for me.”

Reflecting on her experience working, Claire says:

“There have been times I’ve put off applying for more senior roles. I’m nervous about leaving an understanding and supportive manager and going into unknown territory. So, having Ariella – particularly with her special needs – has definitely affected my life at career – even though I’ve been lucky enough to keep working.”

Claire has found the biggest challenge to balancing work and care for her family has been when Ariella’s childcare breaks down – leaving her needing to take time off work. She says:

“More, and more affordable, childcare for disabled children would really make a difference. And not just childcare prior to starting school. School wrap around care, and childcare during the school holidays that can accommodate disabled children, is vital.”

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