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6.11 Parental Learning Disability


This chapter outlines issues to be considered when a parent has learning difficulties.

6.7.1 Parental learning disability does not necessarily have an adverse impact on a child, but it is essential always to assess its implications for any children in the family. This includes an assessment of the ability / competence of the individual parent to make any informed decisions and choices about specific elements of their life. Learning disabled parents may need support to develop the understanding, resources, skills and experience to meet the needs of their children.

Support for learning disabled parents is particularly needed where there are the additional stress factors of:

  • Having a disabled child;
  • Domestic abuse;
  • Substance misuse;
  • Social isolation;
  • Poor housing;
  • Poverty;
  • History of growing up in care;
  • Complex physical or mental ill health;
  • Significant learning disabilities that result in a limited capacity to understand and retain information that affects an individual's ability to make an informed choice and decision.

Parental learning disability can have an impact on children in a number of ways including:

  • Children being at increased risk from inherited learning disability and more vulnerable to psychiatric disorders and behavioural problems;
  • Children taking caring responsibilities for their parent or other siblings who may also have learning disabilities;
  • Increased likelihood of the children's health and development being impaired;
  • Increased risk of sexual abuse by men who target mothers with learning disabilities.

Any professional, including those in adult learning disability services, who is concerned about a child's safety and welfare, whose parent/s has learning difficulties, should make a referral in the usual way. For further information please see Knowsley MASH (Multi-Agency Referral Form).

6.7.4 Specialist assessment will often be needed, and is recommended. Adult learning disability services can provide valuable input to a Single Assessment, and there should be good cooperation between Children's Social Care and Adult Services.