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Disabled Parents

If you are planning to become a parent or take on parenting responsibilities, you may feel you need extra support to look after your child. This could be help at home, equipment or help with ‘everyday’ things like visiting your child’s school.

Your local authority, including social services, health and education departments, can offer this support. Government guidance states that disabled people should be supported within their family and parental roles.

Maternity

It is important to have access to information and the right maternity services, which take into account a mother’s medical condition and/or disability. You could start by talking through any issues with your doctor. Things to discuss could include:

  • Planning a pregnancy and conception
  • How a particular disability and/or medical condition could affect pregnancy and birth (including issues like taking medication while breast-feeding)
  • Scans and tests and genetic counseling
  • Post-birth health support for you and your child

Your doctor may refer you to a specialist or consultant.

Parenting classes The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) covers many areas of everyday life, including access to goods and services. Classes for disabled parents-to-be should make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to make them accessible to all people. Reasonable adjustments could include:

  • Using a pen and notepad to communicate with you if you are deaf or hearing impaired and/or providing induction loops in a certain room
  • Holding the class in an accessible location (to avoid stairs, for example) for physically disabled parents
  • Arranging for someone to explain in simple terms what is being said in class, for a person with a learning disability
  • Let the organisers of classes know of any requirements you have before you attend for the first time.

Aids and Adaptations

There is a wide variety of equipment for disabled parents. Adapted equipment and different ways of doing things may be essential for you to be properly involved in caring for your baby or child. You may find standard childcare equipment does not always meet your needs. Occupational therapists can help with issues arising from bathing, changing, feeding and carrying babies/children Tel 01733 747474

There are several organisations that can give useful advice about all types of equipment for disabled people. Most equipment is easy to find but some manufacturers (and organisations and suppliers) make specially made items of equipment to exactly meet a parent’s needs. Others sell new and second-hand equipment. Suppliers often include well known high-street shops.

Contact details for the Disabled Living Foundation, an organisation which provides information on disability equipment, day-to-day household gadgets, new technologies and training techniques Helpline Tel: 08451 309 177

Types of equipment:

  • Flashing alarms and intercom systems – if you are a hearing impaired parent and need to know when your baby is crying
  • Harnesses – that have easy-to-use straps and clips and contrasting colours to highlight adjustable parts for visually impaired parents
  • Pushchairs and buggies – that are lightweight and easy to push, can be attached to a wheelchair, are easy to fold, have adjustable handle height, have a separate carrycot
  • Highchairs and eating trays – that have adjustable heights, are sturdy to avoid being knocked over, have easy-to-use straps, clips and removal/cleaning parts, can recline easily, are lightweight
  • Adapted cots that have adjustable heights, removable side bars/panels

If you are experiencing difficulties finding a suitable piece of equipment, a local charity REMAP can help by making or adapting equipment to meet your needs, Tel 01778 343236

Schools, colleges and universities have a duty to disabled parents to let them have reasonable access to services related to the education of their child or children. This is to ensure that disabled parents can be fully involved in their child’s education. (See education section)

Disability Discrimination Act

Your child’s school (and the education department in your local authority) should make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to procedures and policies, or provide you with aids to help you access their services, like putting information in accessible formats. They must not refuse to provide a service, or provide alesser service, to you as a disabled parent. Consider contacting the school to ask them the ways they support disabled parents. For example, do staff member’s get disability awareness training, how accessible is the school and how is information provided to parents?

Information for parents in alternative formats

Examples of how and when schools can make reasonable steps to provide information in alternative formats include:

  • providing a school’s annual report, quarterly newsletter or your child’s school report in Braille, large print, ‘easy-read’ or on CD
  • if a school’s complaint procedure says you should write to the head teacher, you should be allowed to make a verbal complaint if you are unable to write because of your impairment
  • contacting you via text message – for example, if a school closes due to flooding

It’s also important to speak to your child’s teacher(s) to make sure you have what you need to help with, and supervise, your child’s homework.

‘Learning Journey Guides’ give parents information about what their children are doing at school at different stages in their education. These guides are available in Braille, large print and audio cassette.

Parents’ evenings, school events and meetings with staff

Examples of how and when schools can support disabled parents include:

  • Using a pen and notepad to communicate with you if you are deaf or hearing impaired and/or providing induction loops in a certain room
  • Arranging for an interpreter – for example, in British Sign Language (BSL) and/or allowing more time for one-to-one meetings
  • Updating you on your child’s progress by telephone or email if you are unable to attend a meeting because of your impairment
  • Holding a meeting in an accessible location (for example, to avoid stairs) if you have impaired mobility
  • Providing a script of a school play if you are deaf or hearing impaired to help follow the action

Visiting schools and accessibility Examples of changes to policies and procedures, where appropriate, that your child’s school could make under the DDA include:

  • Assigning a member of staff to be responsible for meeting your access needs when you want to be shown around the school e.g. if you are blind or visually impaired so you can familiarise yourself with the school’s layout
  • Making sure the school is accessible if you are a wheelchair user by using ramps or making alterations to doorways
  • Providing disabled parking and/or making sure other parents’ vehiclesdo not block access
  • Allowing a disabled parent to be accompanied by their support and assistance dog

School transport

Under the DDA, a ‘reasonable adjustment’ might be, for example, for a local authority to provide free transport if your impairment prevents you from accompanying your child on a ‘walking route’ to school. Alternatively, your local authority might ensure that there is somebody else who can accompany your child instead. The decision on whether, and how, to offer transport is made by your local authority and you should contact them for more information 01733 747474

Disabled parents have the same rights as non-disabled parents. There is no ‘disabled parents’ legislation as such, but certain legislation and guidance protects the rights of disabled adults – including in their roles as parents. This includes the right to have a family, entitlement to an assessment (which can lead to health and social care support) and the rights and protection of children.

Speaking Up for Families is a free, confidential and independent one-to-one advocacy service for parents who have a learning difficulty and/or mental health illness (N.B These catergories are interpreted very broadly. For example, if you are anxious or worried about an issue then an advocate can work with you).

Advocacy aims to empower parents to speak up for themselves and to have their voice heard. We support parents on a variety of family and parenting issues and help them to access information and services, and be aware of their rights. Advocates listen to parents and help them to have an informed choice. An advocate will not tell you what to do or give you advice, but they are there to help you have a voice, take action and have positive changes in your life.

If you think that you, or someone you know, might benefit from advocacy support contact Rebecca Holloway by telephone on 07827444068 or 01354 651222 or email at suf@speakingup.org’

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a good source of advice if you feel you may have been discriminated against in education or elsewhere. Thecommission’s disabilityhelpline can provide advice and information about the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 to schools and colleges as well as disabled people. Telephone: 08457 622 633

Access to Health and Social Care

Disabled people share the same general rights of access to health and social care as other people, but there are also some special provisions under the Disability Discrimination Act.

For example, you have the right to get information about health services in a format that is accessible to you where it is reasonable for the service provider to provide it in that format.

Human Rights Act 1998

In short, you have the right to make your own mind up about becoming a parent. You should also not be denied fertility treatment on the grounds that you are disabled.

In the Human Rights Act 1998 there are a number of provisions that are relevant to disabled parents, including:

  • Article 8: the right to respect for private and family life – the state can only interfere in family life if it is necessary for the protection of others, for example, children
  • Article 12: The right to marry and to found a family – social care services and health providers should take all reasonable steps to help you have a family including giving advice and support before and after your child is born

The Children Act 1989

The Children Act 1989 is designed to keep a child safe and well and, if necessary, help the child to live with their family by providing services appropriate to the child’s needs. Local authorities should, for example, make sure that health and education departments and housing associations work together to protect and promote the welfare of children.

If your local authority thinks that your child is ‘in need’, then it should carry out an assessment under the Children Act 1989 (section 17).

‘Fair access to care services’ Every local council in England uses a national framework from the Department of Health to decide eligibility criteria for the adult social care services it provides. The aim is to have greater consistency across the country on how decisions are made about whether people have services or not. It states that a disabled adult’s social and family roles should be taken into account when assessing the need for services, this includes parenting tasks.

Adopting Children

If you are over 21 years old and you can provide a permanent, stable and caring home; your application to adopt a child will be welcomed. Health and well-being do play a part in the adoption assessment process, but you are not automatically disqualified for being disabled or if you have a medical condition. Once you have made the decision to seek to adopt a child, the first thing you will need to do is contact your local adoption agency to make an initial inquiry.

Sources of Help

Disabled Parents Network is a national organisation of andfor disabled people who are parents or who hope to become parents, and their families, friends and supporters Helpline Tel: 08702 410450

Disability, Pregnancy and Parenthood International DPPI is a small UK based registered charity, controlled by disabled parents, which promotes better awareness and support for disabled people considering, during and after pregnancy and as parents. Tel: 0800 0184730

DIAL Peterborough can offer advice and support on physically disabled parents rights Tel 01733 265551