Fathers with learning disabilities feel let down by adults’ services, according to research.
A study carried out by the University of Bristol found that statutory services were failing to provide parenting support for fathers, and interventions were often focused only on mothers.
The lack of support was exacerbating the stresses fathers’ already felt about parenthood, and in some cases was contributing to serious mental illness, the study found.
The research was based on interviews with eight fathers with learning disabilities, aged between 26 and 60, and nine adult social care practitioners.
The fathers, many of whom had already experienced difficult lives, said the support from adults’ services tended to focus on housing, finance, and independent living.
They also viewed children’s services as being motivated mainly by safeguarding concerns, and said any interventions on offer tended to focus support towards mothers.
‘Not routinely engaged’
Social care practitioners interviewed for the study acknowledged that services viewed mothers as the ‘primary carer’ and fathers were not routinely engaged with support.
Most said they saw their role as supporting the adult, but felt that parenting support fell under the responsibility of children’s services. However, they felt that children’s services were only able to deliver short-term interventions, which were not sufficient for learning disabled parents.
Only one practitioner interviewed was aware of the outcome in the Care Act 2014 eligibility criteria that relates to an adult’s caring responsibilities for a child. This means that a person is eligible for care and support, where they are unable to carry out their caring responsibilities, and to achieve least one other specified outcome, as a result of their care and support needs, resulting in a significant impact on their well-being.
The research concluded that learning disabled fathers needed to be much better included in “family-focused social care practice”, in order for their needs to be met.
It recommended that adults’ services identify fathers at the point of referral and discuss how they could best be supported with the practicalities of parenthood.
‘Fulfil parenting role’
Jon Symonds, who jointly led the research, said: “The fathers we spoke to really wanted to be included in support to help them fulfil their role as loving parents to their children.
“Practitioners can support fathers with learning disabilities in the same way they do mothers – by including them in conversations about being a parent, and offering emotional, as well as practical support with parenting tasks.”
The study was carried out by the School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol, and funded by the National Institute for Health Research’s School for Social Care Research.