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If one child in two became looked after, there would rightly be an outcry. Yet that is the situation for people with learning disabilities who become parents. One of the main reasons for this, many parents with learning disabilities say, is that they find it very difficult to get the support they need to be effective parents.
The Scottish Commission for Learning Disability (SCLD) commissioned Dr Ailsa Stewart and Dr Gillian McIntyre of the University of Strathclyde to scope out services for parents with learning disabilities across Scotland. They found that:
The report made twelve recommendations in four main areas.
Local multi-disciplinary specialist teams should be developed to meet the support needs of parents with learning disabilities in line with the Scottish Good Practice Guidelines.
Good practice already developed locally, for example, in developing care pathways and accessible information strategies, should inform the development of good practice across the whole of Scotland.
More consistent data collection should be developed to support better planning of services.
Social workers, midwives and health visitors should be better equipped to more confidently identify and work with parents with learning disabilities.
Implementing these recommendations is a big task. Assuming there is no money to commission new services for parents with learning disabilities, how do we ensure that the services we provide meet the needs of this population of parents? Supported Parenting - Scottish Good Practice Guidelines for Supporting Parents with Learning Disabilities makes it clear what good practice looks like.
Getting this support right is not easy. But both parents with learning disabilities and their children have the right to family life. And as a manager who supports families with learning disabilities said: “If we get it right for parents with learning disabilities then we get it right for everyone.”
Other articles published in our March 2017 newsletter:
Other articles about struggling families: