Learning Disability Wales has welcomed a new report that calls for parents with a learning disability and their children to get improved support. The recommendations, which include new national guidance and training for social workers, are part of a recent Welsh Government-commissioned research report into the number of children in Wales placed into care from parents with learning disability, and the reasons behind their removal.
We have lobbied for several years to highlight the need for guidance in Wales on how to support parents with a learning disability, particularly through work that we undertook in our Working Together with Parents Network partnership project.
In December, a research report was published looking at the reasons why children of parents with a learning disability are removed and placed into care (opens as PDF), and whether parents with a learning disability are over-represented within children’s social services. The Institute of Public Care at Oxford Brookes University undertook the research on behalf of Welsh Government.
Five local authority areas in Wales were looked at. Some findings include:
- There was not enough reliable information or consistent data collection to make a judgement about the extent to which parents with a learning disability are involved or over-represented within children’s social services.
- Having a learning disability was rarely the only concern when parents were referred to social services and for children to be taken into care. Reasons were more complex including parental mental health problems, substance misuse or domestic abuse.
- Social services and court cultures and systems place parents at a disadvantage in terms of the time they have to prove themselves as effective parents.
- Specialist assessments were sometimes completed late or by someone inexperienced.
- There were pockets of good practice where parents with a learning disability were supported effectively to care for their child, but there is room for improvement.
- Develop a national definition of learning disability so data can be recorded consistently.
- Accessible information to be given to parents involved with social services and the courts.
- Guidance and training for social workers on how to identify parents with a learning disability, communicating, when advocacy should be provided and best practice in assessments.
- Joint working between adult and children’s social services
- Early support for parents.
- More consistent support services.
Working Together with Parents Network
Our partnership project Working Together with Parents Network in Wales, which ended in August 2019, aimed to improve the support for parents with a learning disability in Wales, England and Scotland. As well as lobbying for new guidance, we have also worked and lobbied for improvements that have arisen in the report. Including:
- Children’s and adult services should work together to agree joint protocols for referrals, assessments and care pathways. Identification of needs must take place as early as possible, preferably as soon as pregnancy is confirmed.
- Parents with a learning disability need information in a format they can understand as they may have low literacy skills or communication difficulties.
- Parenting programmes need to be adapted to the specific needs of parents with a learning disability.
- Support should be on-going and long term.
- All parents should have access to an independent advocate if their children are the subject of child protection and/or care proceedings.
- Training for professionals such as social workers, health visitors and court staff. We have been pleased to provide some diversity training to the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass).
Independent advocates to be paid for
In December there was an important and welcome judgement recently from the High Court that deemed that two parents with a learning disability are legally entitled to funded independent advocacy.