Parents with learning difficulties need better support

Many parents with learning difficulties are classed as “too able” to qualify for the services they need and end up having their children removed because they receive support too late, a new report published today claims.

Eligibility criteria in services working specifically with adults or parents with learning difficulties often related to their learning difficulty “label” and were based on IQ, according to the report from Bristol University’s Norah Fry Research Centre.

But it said services needed to take additional needs for parenting support into account.

An English national survey last year found that around half of parents with learning difficulties have their children removed, but the Bristol University report said their children “rarely” entered the child protection system because of abuse. Instead, the “prevailing concern” was “almost always… a perceived risk of neglect”.

The Bristol report also claimed the split of councils’ adult and children’s social care was a barrier to better co-ordination of services for families where parents have learning difficulties.

Researchers found some practitioners wanted to see family teams supporting parents with learning difficulties and their children, but structural changes in councils were working against this.

The study, Finding the right support? A review of issues and positive practice in supporting parents with learning difficulties and their children, published by The Baring Foundation, also found that only half of workers supporting parents with learning difficulties had undertaken specific training.

It said professionals working in adult services required child protection training, while those working in children’s services needed training around adults with learning difficulties.

And it recommended that the Department of Health and Department for Education and Skills develop joint practice guidance for children’s and adult services on the issue.


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