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
By Jenny Morris and Michele Wates
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.
Protocols enable agencies to:
- agree on a common set of core principles
- establish clarity about the respective roles and responsibilities of relevant agencies
- agree and jointly own procedures for all stages of the relationship between families and agencies, from referrals to assessments, to information-sharing, to planning, to service provision, to funding and to review
- ensure a joined-up approach to families’ needs through the commissioning process.
The following principles underpin the development of good practice in the support of families affected by parental disability or ill health:
- All professionals who work with children and families should be responsible for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children in their work.
- Children are usually best brought up by their own parents and agencies should support this where practicable.
- Additional support needs should be addressed by enabling parents access to universal and community services wherever possible and appropriate.
- Additional support needs should be met by the timely provision of specialist assessments and services.
- Agency responses should be needs-led, aim to support family and private life and prevent unnecessary problems from arising.
- Diversity should be valued and fully considered in agency responses.
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.
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.
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.