Supporting Parents with Learning Difficulties

A new report called ‘Finding The Right Support’ has been published. The Norah Fry Research Centre at the University of Bristol have just completed a study which investigated positive practice in supporting parents with learning difficulties.

An increasing number of adults with learning difficulties are becoming parents. In about 50% of cases their children are removed from them, usually as a result of concerns for their well-being and/or an absence of appropriate support. This study set out to map the issues confronting parents and professionals in this area, along with strategies for positive practice in providing parents with learning difficulties and their children with ‘the right support’ to stay together as a family.

Key findings
• A wide variety of agencies and professionals are engaging with the issues around
supporting parents with learning difficulties and their children including community nurses,
social workers, health visitors, midwives, psychologists, speech and language therapists,
occupational therapists and advocates.
• There are a range of barriers to the provision of appropriate support to parents including
negative, or stereotypical, attitudes about parents with learning difficulties on the part of staff
in some services.
• Many professionals are trying to help parents overcome these barriers so that they can
parent with support. To achieve this professionals are:
• raising awareness of parents with learning difficulties and their support needs with non
learning disability specialist services
• developing multi-professional and multi-agency support for them and their families
• empowering parents with learning difficulties.
• Effective support involves a wide range of strategies, including early identification of parents
with learning difficulties; support during pregnancy; assessment of support needs; skills
training; help at home; parenting groups; flexible support to meet families’ individual and
changing needs; helping parents to engage with children and family services; and multiagency
• The provision of easy to understand information on all aspects of parenting and advocacy
support are also critical, especially during child protection and judicial proceedings.
• Professionals working in services for adults with learning difficulties need training in child
protection issues; those involved in children’s – or generic – services need training about
adults with learning difficulties and their support needs.
• Many adults with learning difficulties are deemed ‘too able’ to qualify for the support services
they need. Eligibility criteria for services need to take account of their additional needs for
support for parenting.
• The development and spread of good practice in this area requires action at different levels:
the individual parent and family; local services; and at national (policy) level.

The full report can be downloaded from:-