The Welsh government has produced new guidance for social workers working with families where the parent has a learning disability, with the aim of preventing children being taken into care.
The report found that many parents with a learning disability raise their families effectively without external support. However, others may require additional support and the possibility of positive outcomes being achieved is increased if support is provided proactively rather than only when a crisis occurs.
Recommendations include early intervention, effective communication, independent advocacy and support in court proceedings.
The report said that people with learning disabilities are often judged by what they are unable to do rather than what they can do and what they might achieve. The importance of adopting a strengths-based approach, where the capabilities of parents are acknowledged, and support is focused on building on strengths to achieve desired outcomes is therefore stressed.
The guidance follows research from the Institute of Public Care that looked at the number of children in Wales removed from parents with learning disabilities and the reasons behind their removal.
Recommendations from that research included development of national guidance to support social workers to better identify and support families where a parent has a learning disability. The Welsh Government commissioned this report to address this recommendation.
The following sources were used to produce the guidance:
a scoping review of relevant research, policy, and guidance
discussion with key stakeholders at a national and international level
interviews with parents with learning disabilities
focus groups and individual interviews with a range of stakeholders including social work managers and practitioners
feedback from stakeholders regarding early drafts of this document.
The report added: “Whilst presented separately these areas are inter-related and need to be considered alongside each other. For example, establishing effective communication is essential from the outset of engagement with families and is needed throughout assessment, planning and delivery of support.
“The provision of independent advocacy can support this and effective practice with families requires appropriate organisational supports.”