Sinking or Swimming? Supporting Parents with Learning

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Sinking or Swimming? Supporting Parents with Learning
• • • PRACTICE UPDATE
Sinking or Swimming?
Supporting Parents with
Learning Disabilities and
their Children
ABSTRACT
According to government policy, parents with learning disabilities should be provided with the
support that they need to bring up their children successfully. In practice, however, their risk of
having their children removed from them is high.This article reports on findings from a study
designed to identify and map positive practice in supporting parents with learning disabilities
and their children. It reviews the barriers confronting adults with learning disabilities who want
to have and look after their children. It also describes a range of examples of positive practice,
demonstrated by professionals and supporters of different backgrounds across the UK, aimed
at helping adults with learning disabilities to parent successfully so that they can keep their
children with them. It concludes with a discussion of what is needed to facilitate the spread
of such examples of positive practice in the future.
Linda Ward
PROFESSOR OF DISABILITY & SOCIAL POLICY & DIRECTOR,
NORAH FRY RESEARCH CENTRE
Beth Tarleton
RESEARCH FELLOW, NORAH FRY RESEARCH CENTRE
INTRODUCTION
No-one knows how many parents with learning
disabilities there are in the UK; estimates of their
numbers vary (McGaw, 1997). The recent national
survey of adults with learning disabilities in England
found that one in fifteen of the 2,898 adults
interviewed had children (Emerson et al, 2005).
Whatever the true figure (different estimates and
studies have been bedevilled by varying definitions
of ‘learning disability’; Booth et al, 2005), it is
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generally acknowledged that their number is rising
steadily and that they now:
represent a sizeable population whose special needs
have so far not been adequately addressed by the
health and social services (Booth, 2000).
National policy in England explicitly commits
government to:
supporting parents with learning disabilities in order
to help them, wherever possible, to ensure their
children gain maximum life chance benefits (DoH,
2001).
The Same as You?, the review of services for people
with learning disabilities in Scotland, similarly
requires that:
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local authorities and NHS Trusts should make sure
that the needs of parents with learning disabilities
and their children are identified and met (Scottish
Executive, 2000).
Nonetheless, in practice, parents with learning
disabilities are far more likely than their nondisabled peers to have their children removed from
them and placed permanently away from the family
home. In the English national survey, 48% of the
parents interviewed were not looking after their own
children (Emerson et al, 2005). This figure
conforms with the findings of other studies of
parents with learning disabilities world-wide, where
child removal rates of 40–60% are consistently
reported (McConnell et al, 2002).
It was in the context of this stark mismatch
between policy and practice that the Baring
Foundation commissioned a mapping study of the
support available to parents with learning disabilities
and their children. This article provides an overview
of some of the key findings of the project, with a
particular focus on examples of positive practice
identified and an exploration of what might facilitate
the spread of such positive practice in the future.
METHODS
In order to maximise the scope of this relatively
small study, material was collected through:
● a review of the relevant literature
● consultation with an advisory group of 13
parents with learning disabilities – established
in the local area to inform the project and its
development at every stage
● a paper and Web-based questionnaire, developed
through consultation and discussion with
national experts and local professionals and
promoted through relevant networks in all four
countries of the UK, which aimed to locate
services supporting parents with learning
disabilities and to understand the support
provided by them and the barriers encountered
● telephone interviews with 21 professionals who
had completed questionnaires to gather fuller
WITH
LEARNING DISABILITIES
AND THEIR
CHILDREN
information about the promising practice they
described
● case study visits to six areas of the UK,
purposively selected to reflect different
geographical areas and types of positive practice
highlighted, and including interviews or
meetings with 17 parents with learning
disabilities and a wide range of practitioners,
advocates and service managers (a total of 26
different professionals and agencies)
● interviews with professionals and others involved
with parents with learning disabilities and their
children in the court system (including a judge, a
solicitor, a guardian and a regional director of
CAFCASS – Children and Family Court
Advisory and Support Service).
The survey responses (85 in total) were analysed
thematically and by respondent group (including
advocates, workers supporting adults with learning
disabilities, workers in services supporting
vulnerable parents). Professionals in children’s
services were under-represented as questionnaire
respondents in comparison with professionals
involved with adult or learning difficulty services,
prehaps because those working in child protection
or allied services do not identify as providing
support to parents with learning disabilities. Thirty
parents were involved in the study overall (including
the thirteen who formed a consultation group for
the project), of whom twenty-five were mothers and
five fathers, and two were from black or minority
ethnic groups.
FINDINGS
Barriers to successful
parenting
Although the focus of the study was on identifying
examples of positive practice, these examples need
to be located in the context of the multiple
barriers parents still confront in the struggle to
show they can be ‘good enough’ parents to keep
and bring up their children. Some of these
barriers stem from prejudice and negative
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stereotypes about parents with learning disabilities
(which are explored further below). Others arise
from the historic tension for service providers,
particularly social workers, between protecting
children and upholding the rights of parents
(McGaw & Newman, 2005). Child and family
social workers, charged with protecting children’s
welfare, have been concerned that the well-being
of children living with parents with learning
disabilities will almost inevitably be at risk; hence
the disproportionate likelihood for parents that
their children will be placed away from the family
home.
Professionals in services supporting adults with
learning disabilities, by contrast, have wanted to
ensure that adequate support is provided in order
that they can parent successfully – so that their
children are less likely to be removed. However,
this apparent gulf – between upholding the rights
of the parents and those of the child – may be
more apparent than real. Parents with learning
disabilities also want to promote and protect the
welfare of their children – and they are more likely
to be able to do so if they are assisted and
supported appropriately (McGaw & Newman,
2005). Nonetheless, those participating in the
study confirmed that, in their experience, parents
with learning disabilities still confront a range of
obstacles to receiving the support that they need
in order to prove themselves ‘good enough’
parents. They included the following.
Negative stereotypes and
assumptions
Such stereotypes represented such parents as
incompetent, unable to understand their children’s
needs or learn skills quickly enough to meet
them; in short, they were never going to be
‘good enough’ parents.
Fixed ideas about what should
happen to their children
The Children Act 1989 makes it clear that children
should be supported in their own family wherever
possible. But professionals supporting parents with
learning disabilities observed that staff in children
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and families social work teams, responsible for child
protection, tended to have other ideas. One
psychologist commented:
‘[They] do not have a concept of ongoing support to
mitigate the effects of a disability.…[They] give the
appearance of just wanting to get the child placed
with other parents as soon as possible’.
Lack of consistency and
clarity in what constituted
‘good’ parenting
Parents were often in contact with numerous
different professionals (Woodhouse et al, 2001
reported 23 distinct teams of relevant professionals
in their area). Often they had varying ideas and
standards about different aspects of parenting,
which could be hopelessly confusing for the parents.
Examples ranged from simple issues (such as
whether a dummy was acceptable) to more complex
ones. For example, one mother in our study had
been both praised and criticised by different workers
for leaving her child with her mother one day a
week in order to attend college.
Parents’ lack of engagement
with children’s and family
services
Parents’ fear of having their children removed from
them could often result in their taking a deliberate
stance against services and professionals who they
felt were threatening their family (particularly when
they had had children removed in the past). Where
parents adopted an apparently adversarial position of
this kind, and failed to engage with children and
family services, a vicious circle could ensue, in which
children and family services subsequently became
even more concerned about their parenting ability.
Late or crisis-point referrals
Some parents with learning disabilities who became
known to children and family services had, until
that point, not been in contact with local learning
disability services. This might be because they had
only a ‘mild’ learning disability and had managed
without specialist help until they became parents.
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Professionals like midwives or health visitors in
mainstream services were often not equipped to
identify such parents as having learning disabilities,
and were unaware of their potential support needs
(Green & Vetere, 2002). Consequently, parents were
often referred to adult and specialist support
services only at crisis point, by which time it could
be too late for them to receive the support needed,
with the result that their children were placed away
from the family home.
Inadequate resources and
eligibility criteria
Lack of resources often inhibited provision of
appropriate levels of service for parents with
learning disabilities. Many parents with learning
disabilities did not reach local thresholds for
community care services or support to help them
bring up their children, and showed up on services’
‘radar’ only if their children were seen as children
in need or as being at risk.
Strategies to support
parents with learning
disabilities
Despite all the barriers to provision of adequate
support to parents with learning disabilities, our
study revealed substantial enthusiasm and
commitment on the part of professionals and services
to developing strategies to overcome them.
Individuals and agencies described a wide range of
initiatives and interventions to help adults with
learning disabilities in their local areas to ‘parent with
support’. We have grouped these under 10 broad
headings (Box 1) and discuss them in turn below.
Identifying parents with
learning disabilities
Llewellyn and colleagues (1999) highlight the need
for mainstream services to be better equipped to
identify and support parents with learning
disabilities. Staff involved in this study were using a
number of strategies to raise awareness in generic,
mainstream services about parents with learning
disabilities and their support needs, in order to
facilitate their early identification and support.
WITH
BOX 1
LEARNING DISABILITIES
AND THEIR
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STRATEGIES TO SUPPORT PARENTS
LEARNING DISABILITIES
WITH
● Identifying parents with learning
disabilities
● Appropriate antenatal support
● Assessing parents’ support needs
● Helping parents acquire the skills and
knowledge they need
● Providing the right support
● Parenting groups
● Helping parents to engage with other
agencies
● Multi-agency working
● Advocacy
● Child protection and the courts
They were:
● producing leaflets describing the support
available from local services for parents with
learning disabilities
● proactively networking with a wide range of
professionals, including solicitors and health
workers
● holding information days for parents – and for
other professionals
● providing training
● attending multi-agency groups and raising the
question of whether parents might have a
learning disability
● developing clear protocols/pathways/referral
processes, to be shared explicitly with staff in
other agencies.
In some areas, screening tools had been developed
to help staff identify whether an individual had a
learning disability (McDonnell & Hames, 2005).
Elsewhere, a pack had been developed to support
midwives in the same process, while other areas had
been undertaking ‘awareness training’, often copresented by parents, about learning disability and
its impact on parenting (Mencap, 2005).
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Appropriate antenatal support
Staff supporting parents with learning disabilities
felt that pro-active, one-to-one work with parents
should begin in the sixteenth week of pregnancy.
Community nurses were needed to help parents
understand the information provided by midwives,
so they could develop the required baby care and
other skills. Parents also needed support if they were
to attend mainstream antenatal classes, where they
could otherwise feel that they ‘didn’t fit in’.
In one area, the local learning disability service
ran a special antenatal class for expectant parents in
conjunction with local midwives. These were seen as
particularly valuable for parents who were
frightened that their children might be removed
from them. Elsewhere, staff described how they had
been raising awareness about parents with learning
disabilities and their support needs before the birth
of their child through:
● involvement of midwives and maternity service
staff in development of local protocols and
pathways
● development of a local ‘maternity alliance’
(involving all relevant professionals)
● provision of information about the support
available to parents with learning disabilities
● training for midwives about the particular issues
confronting parents with learning disabilities,
and their resulting support needs
Assessing parents’ support needs
Most professionals were clear that, for assessments
to be maximally useful in determining the most
appropriate support for individual parents, they
needed to be based on competency (rather than IQ)
and to take account of parents’ existing skills. They
also needed to be holistic and to pay attention to
the family’s wider social context, including the
impact of their often poor environmental
circumstances, stress and social isolation on their
parenting (Feldman et al, 2002; McGaha, 2002;
McGaw & Newman, 2005).
Professionals supporting parents with learning
disabilities were using a wide variety of strategies to
assess their support needs. Among respondents to
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the Web questionnaire, the Parent Assessment Manual
(McGaw et al, 1998) was cited most frequently.
Respondents also used a range of psychometric
assessments (see McGaw & Newman, 2005 for full
details of the range available). Assessments by
speech and language therapists (to maximise
effective communication with parents) and
occupational therapists were also mentioned, along
with community care assessments and joint
assessments with children’s services. Assessments
were also undertaken, or informed, by home visits
and getting to know parents more informally.
Helping parents acquire the
skills and knowledge they need
Undertaking a competency-based assessment of the
skills and understanding individual parents already
have should make it easier to identify the particular
skills and knowledge they still require to parent
successfully. There is now a good deal of
information available on different approaches to
skills training generally, and for parents with
learning disabilities in particular. McGaw and
Newman (2005) provide a helpful overview of
different interventions.
Effective skills training needs to be carried out in
parents’ own homes, using the actual equipment
they will use with their baby, but very often parents
had to go to a residential assessment centre away
from home. As they pointed out to us, this meant
that they lost contact with professionals they had
learned to trust. Being away from home for
substantial periods of time also caused further
distractions from focusing on learning how to
parent, including anxiety about the risk of losing a
job, worry about pets and the security of the family
home, and infrequent access to family and friends
who mattered and who might normally support
them. All these factors worked against their
performing well, just when they needed to.
Staff in our study reported a range of strategies
to help the parents they worked with to develop the
skills and knowledge they needed, including:
● clear communication, ensuring that parents have
understood what they have been told
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● use of role play, modelling and videoing the
parent and professional undertaking a task, for
discussion and reflection
● step-by-step pictures showing how to undertake
a task
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improved their social networks, self-esteem and
ability to challenge discriminatory views of
themselves. A wide variety of professionals from
different backgrounds were involved in the provision
of these groups, including learning disability nurses,
● repeating topics regularly and offering
opportunities for frequent practice
● providing/developing personalised ‘props’, such
as finding a container which will hold the right
amount of milk for the child, so that the parent
does not have to measure it out every time
● working with parents themselves to develop
helpful resources.
Providing the right support
Parents in this study, and elsewhere (for example
West Berkshire – Mencap, 2004) identified a wide
range of areas in which they might need support:
getting children to do what they needed to, helping
with homework, trying to explain things to children,
managing children’s behaviour, being patient,
keeping children safe, going to parents’ evenings,
understanding what professionals said, help with
transport, paperwork, managing finances and
practical tasks around the home, dealing with
harassment, bullying and protecting themselves.
BOX 2
THE INGREDIENTS
SUPPORT’
OF
‘THE RIGHT
Professionals described the support they tried
to provide to parents with learning disabilities
in the following ways
● Listen to them and support them
emotionally
● Work at developing a relationship with
parents who might be reticent or afraid to
engage with services
● Provide positive praise for achievements
and develop parents’ self-esteem
● Be creative and ‘think outside the box’ to
find and develop strategies to support
individual parents in different ways
● Break tasks down into small steps
● Communicate clearly
● Have a non-judgemental attitude
● Refer the child/ren back to the parent, so
Parents in the study were clear on how they wanted
their supporters to operate.
that the parent remains in control
● Be honest and clear about what is
expected
‘Take feedback… Listen… Pay attention… Do what
you ask… Not judge us… Have confidence in us
and trust we can do it…’
This was reflected in the way that professionals
described the support they aimed to provide (Box 2).
● Consult with, and follow, advice from
appropriate experts (such as a health
visitor)
● Work in a consistent way with other staff
involved with the family
● Have knowledge of child development
‘It’s about letting them realise that you’re listening to
them and taking them seriously… not bossing or
judging, just being on their side. (Support worker)
Parenting groups
Parents’ groups were valued by both parents and
professionals alike. The latter recognised them as a
cost-effective method of supporting parents which
● Pay close attention to detail, for example
the amount of medication needed by a sick
child
● Understand the boundaries of their role
(to support parents rather than do tasks
for them)
● Remain alert to child protection concerns
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occupational therapists, child protection workers,
psychologists, social workers, portage workers and
advocates. One group involved in our study was
initiated by an advocacy organisation, while others
were run in conjunction with Sure Start.
The existence of ongoing group support meant
that workers could remain vigilant about potential
child protection concerns while parents could access
informal discussions with different professionals about
issues of concern to them. In some places, parents had
been told about a group by other parents who already
attended, rather than directly by service staff. This
meant that professionals could provide informal
support to parents with learning disabilities who were
not themselves in direct contact with services. In two
of the areas visited, groups were being run by the
parents themselves and becoming independent from
the services which had set them up.
Professionals and parents involved with
parenting groups in our study highlighted what was
necessary to make them a success (see Box 3).
Helping parents to engage
with other agencies
Engaging with children and families services is
often a major fear for parents with learning
disabilities. Staff in our study described how
they were supporting parents to interact with
other agencies, by developing positive relations
with them and providing them with ongoing
emotional support.
‘[We try to] build parents’ confidence to enable them
to slowly begin to liaise with agencies themselves with
your support, only pulling back when the parent feels
confident in doing so.’ (Advocate)
Staff described a number of strategies which they
had found helpful in supporting parents to engage
positively with local services. Providing parents with
photographs (along with careful explanations of
each worker’s role) could help them to remember
the different professionals involved with them, and
what they were doing. Accessible information,
broken down into small chunks as needed, together
with the time and support to understand it, was
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BOX 3
AND THEIR
CHILDREN
WHAT MAKES FOR A SUCCESSFUL
PARENTING GROUP?
● A neutral venue, not associated with
children and families services
● A regular day and time
● Provide transport
● Have a structure and ground rules
● Enable parents to relax, feel safe in the
group and ‘have a laugh’
● Enable parents to share their experiences
with each other (eg parents of older
children sharing advice about drinks which
do not contain e numbers, or how to
negotiate with children’s schools)
● Support parents of school-age children (as
many services support families only until
children attend school)
● Reduce isolation for parents (in one
service two single mothers spent
Christmas together after meeting at the
group)
● May empower parents to go on to act as
trainers and consultants for services
crucial. Some parents did not ‘feel comfortable’ in
mainstream groups such as antenatal and NCT
(National Childbirth Trust) classes and Sure Start.
Professionals in services supporting parents with
learning disabilities were doing a range of things to
address this issue: providing awareness raising or
communication training for staff in mainstream
services, running groups in conjunction with HomeStart and Sure Start, supporting parents to attend
meetings, local groups or a toy library, mapping
local services for parents and children in an
accessible booklet to encourage them to use them.
Multi-agency working
‘[Multi-agency working means] that parents know
what is happening. All agencies are saying the same
things.We learn from each other. Parents are clearer
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about what is expected from them. Agencies also have
better understanding of each other’s way of working
and areas of responsibility.’ (Speech therapist)
Co-ordinating multi-agency support is particularly
important for parents with learning disabilities
where there are a large number of agencies
involved in supporting families (Booth, 2003;
English, 2000). Close collaboration between
children and family services and adult services is
especially critical to appropriate and effective
support so that parents receive consistent, and not
conflicting, advice (McBrien & Power, 2002).
Staff in services supporting parents with learning
disabilities were sustaining multi-agency working
in a range of ways, by:
● ensuring that a contact person from the team
specifically supporting parents with learning
disabilities was available to provide advice and
information to colleagues elsewhere as needed
● giving other agencies and professionals ideas on
approaches and tools to support parents’ skill
development
● raising awareness of parenting issues by
establishing or attending relevant forums
● taking on the role of keyworker (acting as the
main worker to liaise with the parents and report
to the various services involved with them).
A number of areas had developed local
frameworks for appropriate services with joint
protocols and care pathways (including eligibility
and referrals, roles, responsibilities and
accountabilities, communication, and joint
training and development) to facilitate the
different agencies’ contributions to supporting
parents with learning disabilities, along the lines
suggested by Morris (2003). The involvement
of children and families services in the
development of such protocols is crucial if the
gulf between child protection and adult learning
disability support services is to be bridged, and
consistency and collaboration between them, in
the best interests of both children and parents,
are to be ensured.
WITH
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AND THEIR
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Advocacy
Advocates, whether paid or voluntary, can play a
critical role in supporting parents with learning
disabilities, particularly when they are involved with
the child protection or court systems. Parents in our
study valued the support they provided.
‘[They] help out with writing letters; argue their
points across; [are] good at problem solving and
keeping social services on their toes.’
One advocate, for their part, described their role as:
‘enlightening professionals about upholding people’s
rights, explaining people’s access needs and their
right to have them upheld, and working in a personcentred way which many professionals are not wholly
taking on board’.
A number of advocates specifically cited the work
of Tim and Wendy Booth (on advocacy support for
parents with learning disabilities; Booth & Booth,
1998, 1999) to illustrate their role, or referred to
guidelines on involvement of advocates in child
protection (Lindley & Richards, 2002). They
aimed to support parents to make their own
choices and have their voices heard. They were
clear that they themselves were independent of
the services supporting the parents, and so could
negotiate with all parties, while being able to
challenge services when appropriate. They often
had an understanding of both children and families
services, as well as services supporting adults with
learning disabilities.
Child protection and the courts
Staff supporting parents with learning disabilities
were frequently involved in the child protection
system. They commented on how parents with
learning disabilities were disadvantaged during the
child protection and judicial processes by the way
the systems worked (for example the rules of
evidence and procedure, the inadequacy, and lack
of availability, of support services and parents’ lack
of understanding of the process). Parents who had
been through the child protection process often felt
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that social workers assumed they could not be
successful parents and just wanted to take their
children away.
‘Social workers have all the power. As a parent
you are there, alone and not listened to.’
Many professionals felt that an advocate should be
available to parents as soon as the child protection
process was initiated, in order to remind people to
communicate appropriately and to ensure that
issues were explained clearly, to support parents to
speak, to ensure that parents had access to reports
and time to discuss them, to reinforce important
messages from their legal team, and to explain what
was happening in court and provide emotional
support to the parents.
A number of strategies had been developed in
different areas to make the child protection process
more accessible to parents with learning disabilities,
including:
● developing accessible leaflets/videos about the
child protection process
● producing an accessible information sheet
explaining confidentiality
● ensuring that there was a comprehensive,
positive, competency-promoting assessment of
parents’ skills and abilities, as well as of their
support needs
● providing parents with pictures of everyone
at the child protection meetings/judicial
proceedings
● ensuring that parents understood each
professional’s role
● holding the child protection conference away
from social services offices
● making the child protection conference more
friendly through small gestures such as providing
everyone involved with refreshments
● developing guidance/a protocol for professionals
on supporting parents to engage with the child
protection process.
Some solicitors and judges were similarly attempting
to support parents through the judicial system. One
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solicitor, for example, commented on the
importance of ensuring that the most appropriate
assessments were put before the court, and of
slowing down the court process so that parents were
given the chance to show whether they could
develop the skills and knowledge they needed. A
family court judge stressed the need for courts to
adapt and organise themselves so that they were
more welcoming and accessible.
CONCLUSION
So what is needed to facilitate a shift away from
the negative assumptions, attitudes and barriers
experienced by parents with learning disabilities as
they struggle to be ‘good enough’ parents to their
children? What needs to be done to enable them to
parent with support?
The findings of our research underline the critical
importance of providing early support, which can
lessen concerns about child protection, reduce the
stress on parents, boost their self-confidence and
enhance their ability to parent successfully. There is
now a good deal of evidence on ‘what works’ to
support parents with learning disabilities effectively
(for example McGaw & Newman, 2005; SCARE,
2005; Tarleton et al, 2006). But a number of hurdles
still stand in the way.
Currently, there remains a huge gulf between
how children’s and adults’ services respond to the
needs of parents with learning disabilities and their
children. The forthcoming national practice
guidance for those working in this area will,
therefore, be welcome (DoH/DfES, forthcoming).
At the same time, some sharing of examples on how
local eligibility criteria for community care services
can operate, to include parenting support (as
recommended by the Fair Access to Care Services
Guidance, DoH, 2002), would be helpful. Provision
of future funding for advocacy support for parents
with learning disabilities, particularly those involved
in child protection and judicial processes, is also
critical, as the funding provided for advocacy
following the Valuing People White Paper in England
(DoH, 2001) draws to a close. Dissemination of
easy to understand information, such as You and
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Your Baby (Affleck & Baker, 2004) is vital, if parents
with learning disabilities are not to be disadvantaged
in access to useful baby care information.
Appropriate training for staff needs to be easily
available. Those working in generic and family
support services need help in identifying and
supporting parents with learning disabilities;
staff working in specialist adult learning disability
services want training in child protection.
Widespread training in undertaking competencybased assessments, like the Parent Assessment Manual
(McGaw et al, 1998), is also needed. At the
grassroots, effective and systematic links are needed
between generic services (such as maternity
services, doctors, schools, and mainstream parenting
projects like Sure Start and Home-Start) and
specialist learning disability teams, so that services
do not have to wait for problems to arise before
parents can be assessed on their needs for support.
At practitioner level, a national network is needed to
share good practice and ideas for supporting parents
with learning disabilities appropriately. Without
joined-up thinking (including at the level of the
various central government departments involved)
and multi-agency working, it may continue to be
hard to ensure that parents with learning disabilities
(and their children) are not sinking, but swimming.
Discussion points
● What kinds of difficulty do parents with learning
disabilities say they experience?
● What kind of support do they want? Is it
available to them?
● What kind of support do they not like? Why?
● Are parents with learning disabilities making use
of local mainstream family support services like
Home-Start and Sure Start? If not, why not?
● Is advocacy available to support parents with
learning disabilities in your area (especially
during child protection or judicial processes)?
● What new issues have parents confronted as
their children have got older? What has helped
with these?
● Have parents with learning disabilities from
black and minority ethnic communities (about
WITH
LEARNING DISABILITIES
AND THEIR
CHILDREN
whom very little has been written) had different
experiences, or wanted different kinds of
support, from their white British counterparts?
Key learning points
● There are a range of barriers to provision of
appropriate support to parents with learning
disabilities, including negative, or stereotypical,
attitudes about them on the part of staff in some
services.
● Many professionals are trying to help parents
overcome these barriers so that they can ‘parent
with support’.
● To achieve this, they are raising awareness
of parents with learning disabilities and their
support needs with non learning disability
specialist services, developing multiprofessional and multi-agency support
for them and their families and empowering
parents themselves.
● Effective support involves a wide range of
strategies, including early identification of
parents, support during pregnancy, assessment
of support needs, skills training, help at home,
parenting groups, help to engage with children
and family services, and multi-agency working.
● Easy to understand information on all
aspects of parenting and advocacy support are
also critical, especially during child protection
and judicial proceedings.
● Professionals working in services for adults with
learning disabilities need training in child
protection issues; those involved in children’s,
or generic, services need training about adults
with learning disabilities and their support
needs.
● Many adults with learning disabilities are
deemed ‘too able’ to qualify for the support
services they need. Eligibility criteria for local
services need to take account of their additional
needs for support for parenting.
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Learning Disability Review VOLUME 12 ISSUE 2 APRIL 2007 © Pavilion Publishing (Brighton) Limited
31
SINKING
OR
SWIMMING? SUPPORTING PARENTS
WITH
LEARNING DISABILITIES
AND THEIR
CHILDREN
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Learning Disability Review VOLUME 12 ISSUE 2 APRIL 2007 © Pavilion Publishing (Brighton) Limited

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