By James Simons
Fathers suffering with learning disabilities feel let down by adults’ services, a University research have found.
The study carried out by the University of Bristol concluded that statutory services were failing to provide parenting support for fathers, most support directed only to mothers.
The absence of support has heightened the stresses fathers’ already felt about parenthood, and contributing to serious mental illness, the study found.
It is a disturbing finding that calls for swift action to remedy the appalling situation which could send needy fathers into a spiral of depression. The research was based on interviews with eight fathers with learning disabilities, between the ages of 26 and 60, and nine adult social care practitioners.
The fathers said the support from adults’ services tended to focus on housing, finance, and independent living.
Children’s services, according to the sampled research, were also motivated mainly by safeguarding concerns. All nterventionist actions tended to focus support towards mothers.
Social care practitioners interviewed for the study admitted that services viewed mothers as the ‘primary carer’ and fathers were not routinely engaged with support. The provision of parenting support was generally viewed as falling under the responsibility of children’s services, whilst they only felt a duty to support adult. However, the short-term interventions provided by social services were not sufficient for learning disabled parents. Children services really can be said to be failing in their duty, if they have failed to realise that learning disabled parents need more assistance that requires expertise . Adults with learning disability have a serious problem that calls for expert and professional intervention. Childrens services cannot afford to continue to fail in this respect. In fact, this is something social services as a whole must find an answer and solution to..
Only one practitioner interviewed claimed to be aware of the outcome in the Care Act 2014 eligibility criteria that relates to an adult’s caring responsibilities for a child. Under the Act, a person is eligible for care and support if they are unable to carry out their caring responsibilities, and to achieve least one other specified outcome because of their overall needs. resulting in a significant impact on their well-being. Higher levels of expertise and innovative measures are needed to redress the sorry state of fathers with learning disabilities.
Concluding the research was the assertion that learning disabled fathers need to be much better level of inclusion in “family-focused social care practice”, in order for their needs to be met.
It recommended that adults’ services identify fathers at the point of referral and discuss how they could best be supported with the practicalities of parenthood.
Unless fathers falling under this bracket are identified and dealt with at the highest level of profesdsionalism, this sad state of affairs will continue to plague fathers with learning disabilities.
‘Fulfil parenting role’
Jon Symonds, a joint leader of the research said: “The fathers we spoke to really wanted to be included in support to help them fulfil their role as loving parents to their children.
“Practitioners can support fathers with learning disabilities in the same way they do mothers – by including them in conversations about being a parent, and offering emotional, as well as practical support with parenting tasks.”
The study was carried out by the School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol, and funded by the National Institute for Health Research’s School for Social Care Research. Its findings are expected to be forwarded to the heads of Social Services in as many boroughs as possible.