Children removed from parents who fail to qualify for support, says study

Many parents with learning difficulties are assessed as “too able” to qualify for the services they need and end up having their children removed because they do not receive support, a new report claims.

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

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

A survey in England last year found that about half of parents with learning difficulties have their children removed, but the new report said their children “rarely” entered the child protection system because of abuse. Instead, the “prevailing concern” was “almost alwaysa perceived risk of neglect”.

The report also claimed the split of adults’ and children’s social care under government reforms 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, published by the Baring Foundation, also found that only half of workers who supported parents with learning difficulties had undertaken specific training.

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

Linda Ward, the report’s co-author and director of the research centre, said adults with learning difficulties should be given the right support so they could be “good parents” and stay together as families.

The Baring Foundation has given the Norah Fry Research Centre another 120,000 of funding to support practitioners in the field and push for policy changes.


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