The role of adult social care for parents with learning disabilities when a child is no longer in their care

Mary Baginsky In progress  


A local authority takes parents to court when there are major concerns about children’s safety. Over the past 20 years there has been a sharp increase in the number of children taken into local authority care. Between 40 and 60 per cent of parents with a learning disability have their children removed. Many parents, with and without learning disabilities, who are in this position have experienced a great deal of abuse in their lives. They are also vulnerable to further abuse. This is no different for those parents with learning disabilities, but they face additional problems.

It is not known how many parents have a learning disability, but researchers have found that most parents who have learning disabilities that could be described as ‘mild’ so they may not be able to get adult social care and support. More general services they may use, such as help from a housing provider, do not always provide support for parents who have lost the care of their child. Although there is no right to support for any parent whose child is permanently removed, in recent years special services have been set up in some areas. The suitability of these services for parents with learning disabilities has not been examined. This means we do not know if these parents use the services and the difference, if any, they make to their well-being. There is government guidance on the links that should be made with local authority adult social care departments after a parent with learning disabilities has had a child removed permanently, but many professionals believe this guidance is rarely applied in the way that it should be and that these parents continue to fall through a gap between adult and children’s services.



The project will look at the support that is or is not available from adult social care and from other agencies for parents with learning disabilities when their children are removed, as well as the cost to society of not providing support. It will do this by:
1. reading the research on the subject
2. speaking with practitioners and other experts (especially parents with learning disabilities) to reach better understanding of their experiences
3. building a description of practice in adult and children’s services and specialist services
4. conducting a cost study to explore the costs of providing and not providing support.
Much needed information and co-produced guidance for service providers and practitioners, as well as advocates and other people supporting these parents can then be provided.

The study’s partners are:
1) Working Together with Parents Network (WTPN) an organisation that helps professionals working with parents with learning disabilities
2) Research in Practice (RIP), an organisation supporting practitioners working with parents who have experienced the removal of their children.
These partners will help set up an expert parents’ group that, alongside the advisory group and an international review group, will help parents and professionals to take part in this work and help develop our findings and resources.