Report launch - Finding Flexibility: parents of disabled children and paid work

Released 8th November, 2012|2,146 Views

Nine out of ten unemployed parents of disabled children want to work but are forced out by lack of flexibility says Working Families

‘Finding Flexibility: parents of disabled children and paid work’ – Working Families’ report on combining work with caring for a disabled child is published today

‘Staying put’ rather than ‘getting back’: flexibility around times of crisis could ensure parents of disabled children can keep working

91% of unemployed parents of disabled children want to work, according to research by Working Families which is published today. The survey of over a thousand parents also found that 64% of parents in work had declined promotion or accepted demotion to balance care and work. Yet flexibility around the time of diagnosis and at other crisis points, together with affordable childcare, could prevent many parents from opting out of the labour market.

Of the 73% who were in paid work:

- Only 38% worked for 30 hours or more.
- 61% had changed or tried to change their pattern of work while 56% had reduced or tried to reduce their hours, in order to manage their caring responsibilities.
- 64% had refrained from seeking promotion, declined promotion or accepted demotion in order to balance caring and paid work.

Of the 27% of respondents not in paid work:

- 82% had given up work in order to care for their disabled children.
- 83% felt that finding suitable childcare was the main barrier to paid work.
- Over 50% had been unemployed for at least six years and were thus unlikely to get back into work.
- 91% would like to undertake paid work at some level.

Sarah Jackson, CEO of Working Families, said “There is often an assumption that parents of disabled children will not be in work, which affects the way they are treated by the services around them. The sheer cost of childcare means that even if work is flexible enough to cope with the demands of appointments, it is difficult to make work pay, even when you want it to.”

She went on to explain that: “Our research shows there is a lack of suitable childcare, flexible working options, and financial incentives to work. These factors, together with the higher costs of childcare, all conspire to force parents of disabled children to reduce their hours, accept less well paid work or opt out of the labour market altogether. This is not only detrimental to the welfare of these families but it also represents a loss of skills to employers and a cost to the wider economy through loss of tax revenues and additional benefit payments.”

She concluded by saying: “Working Families is calling for action by Government, by employers and by service providers to acknowledge that parents of disabled children CAN and DO want to work alongside caring for their children. We are asking for measures to address the availability and affordability of suitable childcare and to increase the flexibility of work options. And as a matter of priority, systems need to be put in place to support parents at the point of diagnosis or crisis and thus enable them to remain in work. From the pattern of employment amongst parents of disabled children it is clear that ‘staying put’ is a more realistic option than ‘getting back’.”


Notes to Editors

For more information contact

Liz Whitehead, Press Office on 020 7253 7243 or email

Eamonn Fetton, Joint Report Author, 020 7017 0062 or 07846 107911 or email

The survey, which was available online and in hard copy, was open between April and June 2012 and received 1014 qualifying responses from parents of disabled children. The embargoed report ‘Finding Flexibility: parents of disabled children and paid work’ is available here:

Employee and employer case studies: contact details of parents of disabled children who have agreed to talk on combining work and care and employers who support employees who are combining work and care are available. Journalists who would like to talk to employee or employer case studies should contact or

Working Families is the UK’s leading work-life organisation. The charity supports and gives a voice to working parents and carers, whilst also helping employers create workplaces which encourage work-life balance for everyone. Working Families runs Waving not drowning, a project for Carers and Parents of Disabled Children who Work or Wish to Work.

The Working Families Freephone legal helpline for parents, carers and their advisers gives advice on employment rights and benefits. The helpline is run by a team of solicitors and advisers and has a Quality Mark from Community Legal Services. Call free on 0300 012 0312, text 07800 00 4722 or e-mail