Working together to support disabled parents

Principles of good practice

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

Key features of good practice

The following key features or distinguishing characteristics of the relationship between agencies and families were evident among the examples of good practice surveyed for the SCIE Knowledge review 11:

Needs arising from impairment/illness and/or disabling barriers should be addressed before making judgements about parenting capacity

Good practice is underpinned by an approach that addresses needs relating to a parent’s impairment or illness and the disabling barriers of unequal access and negative attitudes. This approach recognises that if a problem is seen as entirely related to impairment and personal limitations it can sometimes be difficult to understand how to effect positive changes for parents and their children.

If the focus is, instead, on things that can be changed, such as inadequate housing and on support needs that can be met then there are many more possibilities for positive improvements.

Therefore, a key feature of good practice is that adults’ services take a lead role in responding to parental support needs. This requires that eligibility criteria for adults’ services take parenting needs into account so that significant problems are prevented from arising and adversely affecting children’s welfare. In addition, the parent should be a key partner in the process of planning the provision of services.

There should be clarity about the rights of individuals and the responsibilities of organisations

Good practice is underpinned by clarity about the responsibilities of statutory agencies which are set out in legislation and guidance. This means:

There should be good working relationships between agencies and disciplines

The process of developing joint protocols provides an opportunity for agencies to establish a shared understanding of their respective roles and responsibilities. The good practice examples of joint protocols surveyed for the SCIE knowledge review exhibited the following key features in their relationships with families where a parent or parents were disabled or had additional support needs:

Service development and delivery should be characterised by a partnership approach

A partnership approach to service development and delivery means:

There should be a continuum of prevention

A key feature of good practice is the recognition that a preventative approach needs to be taken at all stages of the relationship between services and families. This means:

A preventative approach is also key to overcoming the stigma and fear which parents often associate with statutory social services.

The key mechanism for promoting these principles and features of good practice is the collective development by relevant agencies of protocols for responding to the needs of families affected by parental disability or additional needs.

The next section of this guidance looks at the development of local protocols, drawing on lessons learnt from areas that have adopted protocols.

The guide also provides a template for developing joint protocols.