“Making the Difference” is a research project focused on supporting parents with a learning disability.
The Project Team included:
David Fiddament – Regional Project Manager, Mencap
Deborah Kitson – Director, Ann Craft Trust
Madeleine McNeil – Project Training Officer
Gail Wickenden – Lead Project Training Officer
Amanda Williams – Project Training Officer
Cat Wilson – Development Officer, Ann Craft Trust
Parents with learning disabilities form a significant part of today’s society. The proportion of parents with learning disabilities has grown substantially over the past two decades. This rise is attributed to a number of factors including deinstitutionalisation, independent living, community participation and increased sexuality and personal relationships education for people with learning disabilities, coupled with the recent recognition that it is neither acceptable nor ethical to sterilise adults based purely on their cognitive ability.
Despite this, conflicting policies, societal attitudes and prejudices mean that instead of celebrating the birth of their children, many parents who have learning disabilities are fighting for services and support, to prove their parenting ability and for the right to keep their children.
In 1995 a policy statement made by Nottinghamshire Social Services stated ‘we wish to support parents with learning disabilities in the community. We recognise that such families can succeed, with varying amounts of support from family, local networks and agency services. We wish to develop supports which are tailored, creative and flexible, and which are empowering rather than problem-focused…’
This is a close match to the way in which Home-Start works and initiated discussions between the Ann Craft Trust (ACT) and HomeStart for ways to better support parents with learning disabilities.
In 2001 ACT, in partnership with Home-Start Nottingham, received funding from the Family Service Unit at the Home Office to carry out a three year pilot project looking at the support needs of parents with learning disabilities. The findings of this study were reported in 2005 (Cooke 2005).
Following the findings from the above study – which highlighted the need for appropriate, accessible support for parents with learning disabilities – Mencap and the Ann Craft Trust applied to the Parenting Fund for a project grant to fund the development and implementation of a training programme for volunteers working with parents with learning disabilities, the funding was received in 2004.
Shortly after this the ‘Making the Difference’ training pack was developed and in April 2005 three training co-ordinators were appointed to deliver and evaluate the training programme in three pilot areas.
The following report has a primary focus upon the evaluation of the ‘Making the Difference’ training programme. In doing this the background policy, research and practice will be reviewed. The report will offer recommendations for the future of the ‘Making the Difference’ project and will also draw broader conclusions which will have implications for disabled parents, staff and professionals, organisations and wider society.