The number of parents with a learning disability is rising, but they are not getting the support they need to being up their children. A new project aims to change this by working to educate medical professionals
In the UK, an estimated 7% of adults with a learning disability are parents. And this figure is increasing, according to research by Professor Eric Emerson and others. Evidence suggests that since the early 1990s, the number of children born to parents with a learning disability has risen by more than 40%.
Despite this, people with a learning disability are less likely than others to access antenatal or postnatal care services. As a result, many parents with a learning disability lose their parenting rights and, in some cases, have their children taken away. The problems are compounded by the fact that parents with a learning disability are more likely to live in poverty and less likely to have a wide social network to give support.
Making The Difference was one initiative that aimed to increase the level of support that parents with a learning disability receive. Run between 2001 and 2004 by the Ann Craft Trust and Home-Start, the project sought to train parent supporters, who could help people with a learning disability to become more effective parents.
Although Making The Difference was a success, it became clear that there was a lack of training available for health professionals involved in maternity and early parenthood. To address this, Mencap recently conducted a two-year project, Making The Difference +.
With funding from the Department of Health, the project was run in partnership with the Ann Craft Trust and NCT (the National Childbirth Trust). In December, the results were published in a report, ‘Inclusive support for parents with a learning disability'.
Elizabeth Watling is Mencap's service manager for the Black Country and has been involved with Making The Difference + since it began in 2008. She explains: "We began with the overall aim of finding out what areas of training were available for health professionals and what the gaps were in service provision for parents with a learning disability."
From this, the project group set objectives, including the development of a learning disability awareness training package for health professionals who support parents with a learning disability.