Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Grandparents of children with learning disabilities need support too

Dan Parton cutGrandparents often play a vital role in the lives of children with learning disabilities, but the lack of support they have needs to be addressed.

For many parents of a child, or children, with learning disabilities, their own parents can be vital in helping to look after their offspring.

Indeed, a recent survey by grandparents network Gransnet and learning disability charity Netbuddy, found that 86% of grandparents said their help in looking after a grandchild with learning disabilities is essential to the care of that child, and 10% said that they provide more than 40 hours of childcare per week.

Given that there are an estimated 300,000 children in the UK with learning disabilities, according to the Improving Health and Lives initiative, that’s a lot of grandparents providing a lot of care.

So it is disheartening to find that 91% of grandparents and 92% of parents said there was not enough professional support available to them.

While, understandably, the focus is usually on providing support to parents, it should be recognised that grandparents also need additional help.

This could be simple things like providing more information about the child’s condition – 44% said they felt they only partly understood their grandchild’s condition – through to more practical advice on such things as best practice in caring for someone with complex needs.

With continuing cutbacks to social care services – including respite care in some areas – parents will probably increasingly look to their own parents for support in caring for their child. As a result, providing extra support to grandparents could make that crucial difference in ensuring that they can play a full role in caring for the child and ensuring that parents and children do not reach crisis point where they require more acute services.

With this in mind, surely it would make sense for local authorities and the NHS to provide more support? Surely the cost of providing support to grandparents would be less than the additional costs of acute and other services that parents may have to access otherwise?

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