Less than 10% of dads have openly told their bosses they have a disabled child

Politicians, leaders and parents of disabled children joined together last night, 29th January 2019, for the launch of the Dad & Me Report, which focusses on the challenges faced by fathers of disabled children. Also launched at the same event was an Employers’ Charter detailing how workplaces can better support this demographic.

The report and charter was developed by Flamingo Chicks – an organisation dedicated to breaking down barriers to inclusion and celebrating what disabled children can do – and the launch event was hosted by Darren Jones MP (Bristol North West).

The report is the culmination of a comprehensive study carried out to understand the issues facing the fathers of disabled children as they juggle their responsibilities as a dad and employee. The findings included:

• Less than 10% of dads with disabled children had openly told their bosses for fear of it affecting their career progression

• A third of dads feel that they don’t understand their child’s medical condition as well as they might because they are unable to attend medical or care team appointments

• 72% of the dads surveyed felt under pressure to maintain a good job that pays well in order to look after their child

• 76% of father surveyed felt that female carers are better supported while almost all (96%) agreed that it is deemed more acceptable for female carers to show emotion and ask for help and support

• Despite their right to request flexible working, 97% of dads said that their jobs were not flexible

• Almost all the dads surveyed (97%) would like the option of working flexible hours to be available to them so that they can better combine their caring and work responsibilities.

Following analysis of the report Flamingo Chicks has compiled an Employers’ Charter which will provide employers with clear guidance on how they can support parents of disabled children. Several large organisations – including TSB, Irwin Mitchell Solicitors and Avon Fire & Rescue Service – have already pledged their support. Employers who conform to the standards outlined in the charter will be able to promote themselves as a Disabled Family Friendly Employer and use the dedicated logo on their promotional materials.

Among the key things employers could be doing to support parents with disabled children include offering real flexible working solutions without stigma, disability awareness training for staff to create a more empathetic and supportive working environment and introducing carer passports within their business to ensure a consistent record of agreed flexibility and support.

About Flamingo Chicks

Founded in 2013, Flamingo Chicks is an inclusive ballet school breaking down barriers by celebrating what disabled children can do. Children get the chance to explore the joy of dance alongside their friends and parents benefit from the much-needed peer-to-peer support for parents and carers of children with disabilities.

In the past five years, it has seen 3,000 children come through its doors, with outreach programmes in eight other countries. As part of its campaigning work, fighting for a fair future for disabled children and their families, it has done everything from perform at Downing Street to deliver a speech at the United Nations in New York.

The organisation’s vision is for a world in which disabled people have the same range of opportunities and a culture of integrated social and well-being activity and where everyone works together as equals.

Discussing the report, Katherine Sparkes, founder of Flamingo Chicks commented: “The extent of dads’ involvement is often overlooked both emotionally and practically and it is commonly assumed mothers take all the caring responsibilities.”

“Our research shows dads want to be more involved but face real barriers at work. Employers have an opportunity to make a big difference to the lives of families caring for a disabled child. By recognising the key role dads can have, this will in turn improve things for mums, as that means they will be supported both in terms of wellbeing but also that their careers aren’t unduly compromised. Most importantly, being able to take a more active role in their child’s life and medical appointments, will help dads better understand their child’s needs.”

“The commercial benefits should not be underestimated either. As the report makes clear, showing empathy and understanding to this group of parents can often lead to them being very loyal to their company and wanting to repay the support they’ve been given with hard work, often going over and above. The benefits certainly don’t all go one way.”

The need for change was also borne out by Greg*, a father to a son with Global Development Delay. He said:

“Bringing up a disabled child is expensive. We also have to plan to provide for our son for long after we’ve died rather than until they just are 18, like parents on non-disabled children can do. That puts huge pressure on me to hold down a good job.

“However, I am afraid to say too much about our child’s needs at work for fear of being overlooked for promotion or my boss and team thinking it’ll impact my work. I miss crucial appointments so I don’t fully understand his treatment/ condition. Whilst my wife also works full-time, she has to bear the burden of juggling everything. It’s sad but it’s more socially acceptable for her to have time off work for our son than it is for me.”

The event was kindly supported by Exeter Live Better, Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, TSB, The Lions Barber Collective, Nisbets, Eversheds Sutherland, Eagle One and Avon Fire & Rescue.

To download the report at www.flamingochicks.co.uk/dadandme

Find event photos here

To view Flamingo Chicks in action in a recent series of short films on ITV, please visit:


For more information, please contact Katherine Sparkes,