Working together to support disabled parents

Case 2: Visually impaired mother who needs help with taking her daughter to school

Without an inter-agency protocol in place

A visually impaired mother has a four-year-old daughter who is going through a phase of running off when she and her mother are out. The mother is concerned for her daughter’s safety on the walk to and from nursery school and contacts her local authority for help. There is a protracted debate as to whether this difficulty is the responsibility of children's or adults’ social services or whether it is a problem for the education service. In the meantime, the child’s behaviour grows more difficult and spreads to bad behaviour in her nursery class. In the end a taxi service to take the child to school is paid for out of the education budget while the school psychology service proposes a course of 'behaviour modification training’ to enable the child to 'cope’ better with her mother's impairment.

The delay in deciding responsibility for cost is acknowledged as having possibly contributed to the deterioration in the child's behaviour. The mother feels undermined because although her daughter is getting to school safely, she is missing contact with teachers and other parents. She also feels that she is seen as an inadequate mother by virtue of her visual impairment and fears that there is a danger of this message being reinforced in consequence of the counselling her daughter is receiving.

With an inter-agency protocol in place

When the mother contacts social services the case is discussed by adults and children's services. Children’s services visit and carry out an initial assessment at which the mother has representation from a local disability organisation. In consultation with the adult sensory impairment team it is decided that the best solution is for a 'walking bus’ volunteer from a local community organisation that is known to social services to walk to and from school with the mother and daughter.

This is a good example of the way in which a speedy resolution of a practical difficulty avoids the situation building into something harder and more expensive to resolve. The prompt response also avoids the parent feeling unnecessarily discouraged and undermined.