Forward by Debbie Robinson and Linda Jordan
We are really pleased that the London Network of Parents with Learning Difficulties has written this Toolkit for Partnership Boards in London.
Since Valuing People was written in 2001, we have been working towards people with learning disabilities leading ordinary lives and of course, this includes being parents.
We know that it is not easy for people to be parents with so much prejudice working against them and services not set up to give them high quality support. However, it is simply not acceptable for this situation to continue. Valuing People Now published in 2009, makes it very clear that the Government expects things to change. Services need to review the way they work, so that parents and their children receive the support they are entitled to.
Partnership Boards will need to make sure that all of their services, including mainstream services are supporting parents properly and they will need to regularly check that this is the case.
This Toolkit will help Partnership Boards to know what the local situation is and to work out what needs to happen to make things better.
We would like to thank the London Network for all the hard work that went into writing the Toolkit and we look forward to continuing to work with them.
Debbie Robinson and Linda Jordan
Valuing People Leads for London
Foreword by Linda Ward
It is Government policy that 'people with learning disabilities should have the choice to have relationships, become parents and continue to be parents' - and that they should be supported to do so.
That is what Valuing People Now (the Government's new three year strategy for people with learning disabilities in England) says.
The Government has also produced Good Practice Guidance for professionals working with parents with learning disabilities on how they should support them.
The right support at the right time should mean that far fewer parents with learning disabilities have their children taken away from them. The right support should enable parents and their children to stay together safely as a family. This is their right under the Human Rights Act of 1998.
Sadly, there is still a long way to go before the right support is routinely available to parents with learning disabilities and their children. Last year's report from the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, A life like any other?, made that very clear.
But some positive changes are now taking place. There is a free national Network for professionals and other people involved with parents with learning disabilities, which provides advice and support on how to do things better. There is a free Parents Network, run by and for parents themselves, which aims to help parents hold on to their children and give support to each other (1). There is a National Taskforce on supporting parents with learning disabilities, which brings together parents and people from key agencies, including government and voluntary organisations, to exchange ideas on good practice and press for change.
Equally important, there are now a number of publications for parents with learning disabilities, written in an easy read, illustrated, format which they can understand. Many of these have been produced by CHANGE, the organisation which runs the Parents Network (1).
Now there is this Parenting Toolkit, put together by parents in London, on the basis of their own experiences of what is needed by families where a parent has a learning disability. The Toolkit aims to help members of local Partnership Boards find out more about what they should be doing to ensure parents with learning disabilities in their area get the help they need - and to which they are entitled.
Let's hope that this Toolkit drives the issue of support to parents with learning disabilities up the agenda for Partnership Boards in London - and perhaps elsewhere in the country too. It is time that the right of parents with learning disabilities and their children to live together as a family - with the support they need to do this successfully - became a reality; not just in policy, but in practice too.
Professor Linda Ward
Chair, National Taskforce on Supporting Parents with Learning Disabilities