Do you have a child with a disability and are worried about finding suitable childcare? Or are you worried about the cost? Finding childcare for your child can be a stressful and worrying time, and may seem a lot more stressful if you are trying to find childcare to meet any additional needs your child may have.
You might want to start by talking to other parents in your situation. If they have shared similar experiences they might be able to give you a useful insight and advice. If there is no-one that you can talk to in a similar situation, your social worker or one of these organisations (listed at the bottom of the page) may be able to put you in touch with other families. Some organisations (such as: Contact) may even have online forums that you can join: Contact / Online Communities. Your Health or Social Worker may be able to advise if there any support groups in your area, or you can check directly with local charities and organisations.
You can find useful advice on NI Direct - Childcare for a child with disabilities.
There are various types of childcare available across Northern Ireland, depending on the age of your child. As a parent/carer you are best placed to decide on which type of childcare will suit your own and your child/rens' individual needs.
You will need to think about whether you want your child cared for in your own home (Approved Home Childcare), in an early years setting (Day Nursery/Out of School/Creche/Playgroup, etc), or in another person's home (Childminder). Our childcare articles; Types of Childcare and Need Help Choosing Childcare? may help you decide on the best type of childcare for you and your child.
Once you have decided on your preferred type of childcare, use our childcare search to find childcare in your area.
There are different filters that you can use on our childcare search at Family Support NI that will help you to find the most suitable childcare providers
You may also find that there are specialist childcare settings that come out in your search. Most specialist settings require referral by Social Worker or Healthcare Professional. Speak to the childcare setting or your Social Worker directly for more information.
Once you have decided on childcare, you may be worried about the cost.
There are different benefits and schemes in place to help with the cost of childcare, for eligible parents. Some of these schemes, such as Tax-Free Childcare, have different rules for families who have a child with a disability. For example:
Check our article: Help with Childcare Costs for more information on the main forms of support.
If you are caring for a child with disabilities, you should check that you are receiving all the financial help that may be available to you.
NI Direct have information on Caring for a Child with Disabilities. Here, you will be able to access information on related financial support such as Disability Living Allowance for Children, and Direct Payments For Children with Disabilities.
There are various types of financial support that may be available to people with disabilities. You can read more information about the range of financial support on NI Direct: Main disability and sickness benefits.
For free and impartial advice about the financial help that may be available to you and your family, speak to a Family Benefits Advisor (see our article: Family Benefits Advice for more information).
Employers For Childcare’s Family Benefits Advice Service provides free, confidential and impartial advice and guidance on financial support with the cost of childcare as well as any other help you may be entitled to. They have a dedicated leaflet for families who have a child with a disability (see related documents below) and an information video on their website: www.employersforchildcare.org/parents/information-videos/ Last year, as part of a project to support families who have a child with a disability to access childcare, their team identified an average per family of £559 per month in increased income, of £6,708 per year.
Advice NI operate this helpline (in partnership with Law Centre NI). They can provide advice regarding changes to social security benefits such as Personal Independence Payment, Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance.
Make the Call is an entitlement check helpline. They will check if there are unclaimed benefits that you may be entitled to. You will need your national insurance number to hand (and your partner's, if applicable).
Text number, Minicom - 028 9031 1092 (deaf and hard of hearing only)
This is a freephone helpline, that provides advice and information on Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance, Carer's Allowance and Carer's Credit.
Children's Law Centre works to protect the rights of children and young people. They can offer you advice and information to help you negotiate services and advocate for your child.
What is a Special Education Need? Find useful questions and answers:
There may be additional points to consider if your child is in or will be entering an educational setting. For further information and support:
Other Useful Contacts:
Action For Children is committed to helping the most vulnerable children and young people break through injustice, deprivation and inequality so they can achieve their full potential.
Tel: 028 9046 0500
Contact a Family provides support, advice and information for families with disabled children, no matter what their condition or disability.
Tel: 028 9262 7552 or 0808 808 3555
Disability Action are a Northern Ireland charity, who work with people with all types of disabilities. They deal with benefits-related issues, referrals to appropriate Social Services teams and health professionals and disability-specific issues such as: access, community care, DDA, education, employment/training, general disability info and human rights.
Head Office (Belfast): 028 9029 7880
Carrickfergus Office: 028 9336 9367
Derry/Londonderry Office: 028 7136 0811
Dungannon Office: 028 8775 2372
Family Fund provide grants to families raising a disabled or seriously ill child aged 17 and under. Their grants support the family, improve their wellbeing, increase quality of life and ease many of the pressures they often face. Family Fund are a registered charity and the UK’s largest provider of grants to families living on the lowest of incomes.
Phone: 01904 550 055
In Northern Ireland Mencap works alongside and represents the interests of people with a learning disability and their families. We deliver a wide range of practical support services, transforming the lives of children, young people, men and women with a learning disability and their families. Mencap have an independent advice and information service which helps people with a learning disability and their families understand their rights and find out about services and activities in their area.
Freephone Helpline: 0808 808 1111 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm)
Parent Action is a not-for-profit organisation, seeking to promote and protect the human rights of children and young people and adults with disabilities/long term health conditions in their receipt of health, social care, education, short break and daycare, employment and training support, through the empowerment of their parents and peers as advocates.
Tel: 077 5230 3854
For a full list of disability support organisations throughout Northern Ireland, please visit:
Contact (for families with disabled children) - Guide to Moving into Work
A Parents Guide - Improving the well-being of young children with learning disabilities
Carers NI - Assessments Factsheet - Your guide to getting help
EA Special Educational Needs - Guidance for Parents and Guardians
EFC Family Benefits Advice - Families with a child with disability