Headlines: February 25th, 2009

Disabled parents and their children often receive fragmented and inadequate support, says a new study by the Commission for Social Care Inspection. Fragmentation has developed following the restructuring of services within councils where separate adults’ and children’s services have been created. This has led to competition about ‘who owns the family’.

Disabled parents’ are a diverse group of people including those with physical or sensory impairments, learning disabilities, mental health needs, drug- and alcohol-related problems and long-term medical conditions such as living with HIV. It has been estimated that there are 1.1 million households with dependent children that have at least one disabled parent.

The report describes how policy and practice have largely been developed separately within adults’ and children’s services, where each has looked at the support needed through their particular lens rather than taking a ‘whole-family’ approach. There has long been long standing concern about the ‘gap’ created between services through which disabled parents and their families can fall.

The survey revealed that two thirds of councils tended to focus separately on adults’ and children’s issues. Only 17 per cent had collected any information about disabled parents and their families living in their area so few are planning and commissioning services on a basis of knowledge.

Resource disputes indicate the lack of joint policies and strategies in many councils. Preventative strategies are also being hampered by a lack of joint policies and resource pressures. Only one third of councils had developed any kind of joint protocol to establish a shared understanding of roles and responsibilities within the council and with other partner agencies.

The Commission calls for councils to work urgently on agreeing joint protocols to ensure no child or disabled parent ‘falls through the gap’ in services. It also wants better information for joint strategic needs assessments and joint planning and the development of a range of local services.