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, and health and education departments, can offer this support. Government guidance states that disabled people should be supported within their family and parental roles.
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:
Your doctor may refer you to a specialist or consultant.
The Equality Act 2010 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:
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. Telephone Adult Social Care to request an assessment 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.
Living Made Easy is an organisation that provides information on disability equipment, day-to-day household gadgets, new technologies and training techniques. Telephone 0300 999 0004, or Visit www.livingmadeeasy.org.uk
If you are experiencing difficulties finding a suitable piece of equipment, REMAP can help by making or adapting equipment to meet your needs. Telephone 01732 760209, or Visit www.remap.org.uk/
0300 999 0004
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 a lesser service, to you as a disabled parent. Consider contacting the school to ask them the ways they support disabled parents. For example, do staff members get disability awareness training, how accessible is the school, and how is information provided to parents?
Examples of how and when schools can make reasonable steps to provide information in alternative formats include:
It is 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.
Examples of how and when schools can support disabled parents include:
Examples of changes to policies and procedures, where appropriate, that your child’s school could make under the Equality Act include:
Under the Equality Act, a ‘reasonable adjustment’ could include your local authority providing free home to school 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. The decision on whether, and how, to offer transport is made by your local authority and you should contact them for more information. Telephone 01733 747474.
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. The commission’s disability helpline 0808 800 0082 can provide advice and information about the Human Rights Act and the Equality Act 2010 to schools and colleges as well as disabled people. Visit www.equalityhumanrights.com
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 Equality Act 2010. 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.
In summary, you have the right to decide if you want to become a parent. You should 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:
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. The 2004 Act went further to create, amongst other things, the concept of a clear, single point of professional accountability for children and young people’s outcomes in the director of children’s services. A single individual centred in the local place in which they work, to bring together different parts of the systems in the best interests of children. It also provided the legal underpinning for the Every Child Matters outcomes framework.
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 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.
Disabled Parents Network is a national organisation of and for disabled people who are parents or who hope to become parents, and their families, friends and supporters. Visit www.disabledparentsnetwork.org.uk
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. Visit www.disabledparent.org.uk
Health Visiting Services provides services for all children from 0-5 years old and their parents/carers who are registered with a Peterborough-based GP. It works closely with the school nursing service for school-age children to help manage the transition into school and optimise health and promote learning through well-being and inclusion. Telephone 0300 029 5050, or Visit www.cambscommunityservices.nhs.uk