Supporting Parents with Learning Disabilities Through Child Proceedings

Legally reviewed by: Jonathan Pollard Updated: In: Child Care

A new study published by Nuttfield FJO suggests that parents with learning difficulties whose babies are involved in care proceedings are often unable to access pre-birth services that can help them to develop and improve their parenting abilities. Nuttfield FJO identifies that many of these parents’ learning disabilities or difficulties are not recognised until the case reaches court, therefore support has not been adapted to the parent’s needs.

Read the full study details.

Study into Babies in Care Proceedings and Parents with Learning Disabilities or Difficulties

The study, completed by the Institute of Public Care at Oxford Brookes University, explored three questions about parents and learning disabilities in relation to care proceedings involving babies:

  • What proportion of care proceedings cases regarding babies (children under 12 months old) involve parents with learning disabilities or learning difficulties?
  • What are the broader characteristics and circumstances of these parents?
  • What are their experiences from the point of referral to children’s social care services through to the conclusion of care proceedings?

The case looked at 200 care proceedings cases involving babies, across four different local authorities, interviewing professionals, and parents.

One Third of Child Proceedings Cases Involved Parents with Learning Disabilities or Difficulties

The case revealed that:

  • One third (34%) of cases one or more parents had learning disabilities or learning difficulties.
  • Furthermore, in around three-quarters of the children’s cases, the parent’s learning disabilities or difficulties were not identified until the case reached court.
  • Nearly half (49%) of the mothers and 28% of the fathers were known to have older children already in care.
  • 51% of mothers and 24% of fathers were known to have be in care and were subject to statutory child protection or a child in need plan when they were children.

Consequences of Non-Tailored Cases

Section 20 of the Equality Act, 2010 states that ‘all public bodies, including local authorities and courts, are required to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that people with disabilities are not put at a substantial disadvantage.’

The research concludes stating that a later identification of parental learning disabilities or difficulties leads to parenting assessments and parenting support services that are not tailored to the parent’s needs. As a result, parents are less likely to engage with pre-proceedings work, potentially wasting resources and leading to care proceedings delays.

Supporting Parents with Learning Disabilities in Child Protection Cases

For any parent, going through care proceedings with the prospect of going to court can be daunting. However, for parents with learning difficulties, getting the right tailored support and guidance is crucial. If the learning difficulty is identified early enough and support put in place, often families can avoid Court proceedings entirely.

Where a learning disability or difficulty is suspected, it’s important that an assessment is undertaken by a psychologist to identify the level of learning difficulty and provide recommendations for how professionals should work with parents, ensuring information and guidance is provided in an accessible way.

Receiving a diagnosis of a learning disability opens the doors for additional support available to parents.

At Cartwright King, we understand the challenges faced by parents with learning disabilities navigating child proceedings. We believe early intervention and accessible support are crucial for keeping families together. Our child proceedings solicitors always use clear communication, providing accessible resources and specialist support to help keep families together.  

For more advice on child law in the UK, call our family solicitors on 03458 941 622 or request a call back using our online form.

Legal Disclaimer.

All advice is correct at time of publication.