In the UK, an estimated 7% of adults with a learning disability are parents. As a group, they are less likely than others to access antenatal or postnatal care services, or to have a wide social network to call upon for support. They are also more likely to live in poverty.
As a result, many parents with a learning disability lose their parenting rights and, in some cases, have their children taken away.
Making the Difference + followed on from an earlier project, Making the Difference. It aimed to provide training to medical professionals about the antenatal and postnatal needs of parents with a learning disability, and to increase the level of support parents receive.
The project was conducted by Mencap between 2008 and 2010. With funding from the Department of Health, it was run in partnership with the Ann Craft Trust and NCT (the National Childbirth Trust).
- Download the report 'Inclusive support for parents with a learning disability'.
- Download an easy read version of the report.
About Making the Difference
Making the Difference was run by the Ann Craft Trust and Home-Start between 2001 and 2004. The project trained parent supporters, who could help people with a learning disability to become more effective parents. Although the project was a success, it also revealed a lack of training available for health professionals involved in maternity and early parenthood.
About Making the Difference +
Making the Difference + aimed to identify the areas of training available to medical professionals, as well as the gaps in service provision.
As part of the project, four pilot areas were set up in the Midlands. Evidence was gathered from steering groups of professionals and parents with a learning disability, as well as a survey of midwives. As a result a number of key issues for parents with a learning disability were identified.
- Parents said they didn't always know what to expect during pregnancy, even though professionals had given them information.
- Many parents felt they were not listened to during labour, resulting in issues around personal choice.
- Parents reported being given information about contraception or breastfeeding that they were unable to understand.
- Some parents hadn't engaged with health professionals at all between being confirmed as pregnant and going into labour.
- Nine out of ten midwives had received no learning disability training, despite being in their current role for an average of 17.3 years.
One major thing that came out of the research is that there's not a great deal of training around effective communication and accessible information. There were also gaps in the basic understanding about whether a parent might have a learning disability - especially for those with a very mild learning disability.
Elizabeth Watling, Mencap service manager for the Black Country
Awareness and training
Following the pilots, a learning disability awareness training package was developed by the Ann Craft Trust, for health professionals who support parents with a learning disability. It received sign-off from the Department of Health and is now available for local authorities or agencies to deliver. Ann Craft Trust staff are also available to run the training course.
Who to contact
For further information about the project, please contact:
Working in partnership