Interact & The Baring Foundation – project update

Posted on 17th October 2016 by

Interact Baring team returns to Brighton hot on the heels of delivering our ‘Parents with LD: securing rights in Practice’ workshops at the British Institute of Learning Disabilities national conference last week.

The workshops were well attended by a cross-section of key professionals in the public and private sector, including providers, commissioners and social workers from adult’s and children’s services across England, Wales and Scotland.

Discussions highlighted gaps between Policy and Practice across the board and the appetite for a clearer understanding of local authorities’ legal duties to parents with learning disabilities where the principle of ‘parenting with support’ must underpin any intervention by children’s services and precede the initiation of care proceedings.

With the recent publication of the update to the Good Practice Guidance there was a lot to talk about, and we were lucky to be joined by its author, Nadine Tilbury of the Working Together with Parents Network. Together we explored the implications of this update, as well as key legal decisions such as that by Judge Munby, President of the Family Division, in the case of D (A Child):

‘… Too narrow a focus must not be placed exclusively on the child’s welfare with an accompanying failure to address parents’ needs arising from their disability which might impact adversely on their parenting capacity.’ (para 5)

The workshop was the first of a series of events Interact are presenting in relation to our work funded by The Baring Foundation to produce and promote a rights resource to empower advocates to use the full force of the law to challenge failures at the earliest opportunity, or indeed advocate for rights early enough so these failures never arise.

We were reassured to see this rights approach high on the agenda at the National Advocacy Conference last Thursday, and endorsed by keynote speaker Steve Broach, public law barrister at Monckton Chambers. His message that all advocates must have a clear understanding of the Human Rights Act and the Equality Act in addition to any area of specialism, and that no advocate should tolerate rights breaches, was a strong message to hear from a national stage and one we fully agree with.

This view was also supported by Belinda Schwehr – a leading legal trainer and barrister – who spoke about the importance of not only professional skills for advocates, but the essential need for legal literacy for advocates to operate professionally.

Since parents with learning disabilities have rights to government assistance in their parenting responsibilities that span over the Children’s Act and the Care Act, in addition to Equality and Human Rights Law, we hope the resource will be a useful tool for advocates to make appropriate challenges to avoid rights breaches, and improve outcomes for their clients. We will be launching the resource in the new year, but while we are producing it we will be continuing to engage with professionals to highlight legal duties and good practice, and explain our role in securing these rights as advocates.

We’ll be doing just that on the 26th of October, delivering a seminar with specialist family barrister Gemma Taylor from law firm 42 Bedford Row at Sussex Law Society.

Do join us if you can! Click here for more information and to book.

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