Olsen and Clarke’s study of social policy research starts with the idea that parenting and disability are about equal opportunities. The study challenges the “domination of clinical, or quasi-clinical, research designs”, which involve research methods that locate difficulties experienced by disabled parents in their individual circumstances and medical conditions.
The authors take a social model approach to disabled parents’ experiences, placing the parents and children at the centre of their study.
The study brings the complexities of family life into sharp focus and exposes the inadequacy of welfare categories such as “young carer”, “carer”, or “disabled”. The exploration of the intersection of public and private reveals how barriers affect the relationships between parents, children and the social world.
Olsen and Clarke eloquently argue that planners should recognise the importance of family context and not simply focus on individual needs. They plead for innovative policies that direct services to take a “life-course perspective”, addressing the changing demands of the parenting role and supporting family relationships.
Christine Wilson is a disabled parent and a disability equality consultant.