Making Brighton & Hove a Fairer City for Parents with a Learning Disability

Posted on 12th July 2018 by

Sam Bond
Sam Bond, Advocacy Services Manager, Brighton & Hove Impetus

At Brighton & Hove Impetus, we believe passionately in working towards an inclusive city. Where we identify social challenges, we work with other agencies to have conversations about the perspectives of our service users.

We have lots of examples of having done this across the city, one of which is the work we have done with Brighton & Hove City Council (BHCC) about the rights of parents with learning disabilities.

Earlier this year, in April, the BHCC Collaboration Framework launched. The launch was an opportunity to reflect on the impact of The Fairness Commission, attended by members of the Equality and Inclusion Partnership: head of Adult Social Care, head of finance at the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), councillors, a range of policy and other officers from BHCC and the CCG, and other health and statutory organisations, including Brighton & Hove Impetus.

Our conversation with BHCC about support for parents with learning disabilities began with Impetus’ report to The Fairness Commission in June 2016. The Commission was set up to find out how to make Brighton & Hove a fairer and more equal place to live and work. The report brings together national research, good practice and legal advice to raise awareness of the lack of support for parents with learning disabilities in our city.

Parents with learning disabilities are entitled to have parenting support in place (long-term if necessary) before parenting capacity is assessed. They are entitled to reasonable adjustments to assessment and support. We supported a user of our Interact service to tell her story in a film about her experience:

Please also see our recently updated web pages for our Interact service, providing free and independent advocacy to adults who are either: a parent with a learning disability going through Child Protection Proceedings, OR a victim or witness of a crime with a learning disability or autism spectrum condition.

The suggestions that we made to The Fairness Commission about what needs to change were included in full in The Fairness Commission Final Report. It made recommendations to BHCC including establishing a joint protocol for children’s and adult services when social services are working with a parent with a learning disability to assess and plan for the care of their child.

In July 2017, The Joint Protocol which Impetus contributed to was finalised. Its intention is to improve joint working between adult and children’s services. The approach reflects balancing the paramountcy of the child’s needs with the rights of people with learning disabilities to make choices about their personal and family lives with the support they are entitled to.

At the BHCC Collaboration Framework launch in April, Impetus CEO, Jo Crease, presented with Emma Cockerell, Head of BHCC Children’s Services, on supporting parents with learning disabilities. Discussion was had about how we would expect the joint protocol to improve support, with the message that it should be in place when parenting capacity is assessed. Advocates should be involved early in the process and be present at Care Act assessments. Support should be holistic, long-term where needed, jointly planned and jointly funded by adult and children’s services, with good information sharing. We gave a case study of a parent where this support had been provided and the child has gone from Section 47 (Child Protection) to Section 17 (Child in Need).

Next steps were discussed to ensure that, as well as children being safe, people with learning disabilities have a fair chance to take on the parenting role. Children’s services have identified the need for training for social workers and a review of evidence is planned for later in the year. BHCC have told us about a new priority housing model with an intensive package of support which some parents with learning disabilities may benefit from.

Commissioners from BHCC are asking parents with learning disabilities about the advocacy support they want when social services are making a decision about the care of their child. Impetus and Speak Out (another local advocacy organisation) are helping to ensure the parents we work with can share their views and experiences.

Impetus is really pleased to have been involved in the launch of The Brighton & Hove Collaboration Framework and look forward to our further recommendations being put into practice.

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