Working together to support disabled parents

How to develop inter-agency protocols to support families in which parents have additional needs related to physical and/or sensory impairments, learning disabilities, mental health, drug and alcohol-related problems or serious illnesses

SCIE Guide 19

Published: August 2007

About this guide

This guide shows how to develop inter-agency protocols to support families in which parents have additional needs related to physical and/or sensory impairments, learning disabilities, mental health, drug and alcohol-related problems or serious illnesses.

Key messages

Protocols enable agencies to:

The following principles underpin the development of good practice in the support of families affected by parental disability or ill health:

Context

In the late 1990s a national inspection by the Social Services Inspectorate (SSI) of eight local authorities’ arrangements for providing support to disabled parents for their parenting role found that only one had policies specifically aimed at meeting the needs of this group of parents. The findings bore out concerns that families were falling between adults’ and children’s social care services and that their needs were unaddressed by either service until a serious – and in some cases avoidable – crisis was reached.

Following publication of the SSI report the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) set up the Task Force on Supporting Disabled Adults in their Parenting Role. In its final report, the JRF task force reiterated an SSI recommendation that local authorities should develop specific procedures and strategies that would enable them to deliver a prompt and coordinated response to disabled parents and their children. This has become particularly important since the separation of children’s and adults’ services.

Purpose

The purpose of this guidance is to support children’s and adults’ services in working together to develop joint protocols. This will enable services to provide more effective support for families where a parent or parents are disabled or have additional support needs, such as mental health problems or drug/alcohol problems.

Audience

The guide is aimed at people working in the fields of social care, health, mental health, education, housing and substance misuse. It is for those people working in organisations with strategic, operational and commissioning responsibilities for services to parents and children in families in which a parent is disabled or has additional support needs. It is relevant to statutory, voluntary and community sector organisations working to support families, and to parents who want to be involved in improving systems and services.

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