Adult learning difficulties and disabilities
2 minute read
Like most families, parents with learning difficulties or disabilities may need some help to bring up their children. This may come from family and friends. But some parents may need help from local services. And some may need support from children’s services.
Parents with learning disabilities or difficulties may benefit from extra help from a range of services
- Help to use support during pregnancy – including working with a midwife
- Support with new-borns – including working with health visitors
- Parents’ groups
- Courses or one-to-one support to help with parenting skills
- Help to with learning about child development
- Groups and courses aimed at fathers
- Practical support in the home. Such as from a family support worker
- Help to use direct payments to purchase their own chosen support
- Support with their child’s social and academic development
- Advocacy support
- Short breaks services
- Help and support for their child from children’s services.
- The law and parents with learning difficulties and disabilities
- Good practice when working with parents with learning difficulties or disabilities
- Good practice when working with a parent or carer with a learning difficulty or disability during a child protection process
- Getting further specialist advice and support
Good practice when working with parents with learning difficulties or disabilities
Children’s services should always work in partnership with children and families. And where a parent has a learning difficulty or disability it is important children’s services follow Good practice guidance on working with parents with a learning disability. This was government guidance, but was then updated in 2021 by the Working Together Parents Network.
A senior Judge has said this guidance is ‘very important’ and recommended practitioners follow it.
- Is for children’s services and adult services
- Aims to improve support for parents with learning disabilities and their children
- Includes advice about communication.
It explains the importance of having the right training, experience and tools when working with parents with learning disabilities. Such as using an approach from the Parenting Assessment Manual (PAMS assessment).
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1. Accessible information, clear communication
Services need to help make sure parents with learning disabilities know it is not unusual to need support with parenting.
All services for parents and children should provide information in ‘accessible’ formats. This may include easy-to-read or video guides. This includes assessment materials and plans.
Both children’s and adult services should take steps to make sure people with learning disabilities who become parents know what support is available.
2. Different services should work together
The guidance says ‘Adult and children’s services, and health and social care, should jointly agree local protocols’. These should cover:
- How parents can become known to, or access, a service
- How assessments will be carried out
- The measures used to decide whether care and support may be provided.
There must also be joint working across all relevant agencies – in particular adult and children’s services.
Anyone working with parents with learning disabilities should have the knowledge, experience and materials to support them. Services should make sure of this.
Parents need to be able to particulate fully in the processes in place.
3. Support informed by assessment of parents & children
An assessment is a way for a social worker to understand a child and family’s situation. It can help to work out:
- What needs the child has
- Whether the child’s parents can meet those needs
- What extra support and services will most help the child and their family.
When a parent with learning disabilities is being assessed, it is important that they are helped to understand why they are being assessed. Parents should be told, in plain language:
- What the assessment is
- What it is for
- What it will involve
- What will happen next.
Any parenting support that is put in place after an assessment should focus on the specific needs of the child and family.
4. Long-term support
A need for long-term support does not mean a parent cannot look after their child. Children and their needs change. A parent may have needed support when the child was a baby, and have coped well for a number of years. But may need different help once their child becomes a teenager. Children’s services should help families to meet their child’s changing needs.
5. Access to independent advocacy
Independent advocates can be helpful for any parent involved with children’s services. But their support is very valuable for parents with learning difficulties or disabilities. It is important for advocacy support to be made available from an early stage.
And independent advocacy should always be provided to parents with a learning disability where:
Getting further specialist advice and support
There are specialist organisations and networks which support parents with learning difficulties and disabilities. See the Disability (including learning disability) section of our Useful links page for further information.
Contact details for local council adult social care departments can be found by entering your postcode or town into this search tool on the NHS website.