Help for disabled parents
5:00pm Wednesday 2nd May 2012 in Health News By
Watch the video below to see how Reesha copes with being a disabled parent
Parents who are disabled may encounter particular challenges related to their disability. These can range from mobility problems that make it hard to pick up your child or push a buggy, to learning disabilities that mean you need help to read letters and understand advice.
Whatever your disability, you have the right to support from your local authority to help you fulfil your role as a parent. The first step is to ask your local social services for an assessment of your needs.
Many people also find useful advice and emotional support by talking to other parents with disabilities.
If you're a disabled person, you’re entitled to a health and social care assessment. In these assessments, your needs are looked at by adult social services in your local authority. A package of support will be agreed with you.
If you're a parent or you’re about to become one, your health and social care assessment should include your needs as a parent.
You may have already had a health and social care assessment. But becoming a parent may mean that your needs change. If so, you can ask your local social services to reassess your needs. You can do this before your child arrives, so support is in place when your child is born.
Find out more about social care assessments, including how to apply online.
Get the most from your assessment
Terri Balon is chair of the Disabled Parents Network (DPN), an organisation that provides practical and emotional support to disabled parents.
Terri says that you can take steps to ensure you get the most from your health and social care assessment.
“The social services team who work with you on the health and social care assessment must not assume you can’t cope, or set out to judge your ability as a parent, without first assessing your needs with a care plan,” says Terri.
The first step of your assessment is usually to fill out a quick assessment form, which social services will send to you. DPN recommends that you attach a written outline of your needs to the form.
Think about all aspects of your needs, including your duties as a parent. These can include:
- Looking after your child at home, for example feeding and bathing your child.
- Taking your child out of the house in a pushchair or buggy, or the car.
- Getting your child ready for and taking them to nursery or school.
- Taking them to activities such as baby and toddler groups.
If social services decide to visit you to assess your needs more fully, you can use the care plan you have written to help you talk through your needs during that assessment.
Terri says: “Remember, the assessment isn’t about providing someone else to look after your child for you. It’s about giving you the support you need so that you can look after your child. That could be help at home for certain tasks, or special equipment such as an adapted buggy.
“The response of social services to disabled parents can vary throughout the country, so it’s important that you know what you’re entitled to.”
The DPN has produced a set of handbooks to help disabled parents through the assessment process. You can access them by contacting the Disabled Parents Network.
The challenges that disabled parents can face are not just practical. While some disabled parents have the support of friends and family and feel happy in their role as parents, others may feel isolated and have difficult feelings about needing help to look after their child.
Teri Balon – who is sight impaired and a mother of four – says that talking to other disabled parents can help.
“Putting disabled parents in touch with one another for peer support is a crucial part of what we do. We have a peer support register, so disabled parents can contact others who face similar challenges.
“Disabled parents can also talk on our online forums. It’s a great place to share experiences, ask questions, and get advice from peers.”
Another organisation – Disability, Pregnancy & Parenthood International – also provides an information service, which you can access online or by telephone.
“If you’re a disabled parent, concentrate on what you can do, rather than what you can’t,” says Terri. “Planning ahead and problem solving will help you to feel in control of your life as a parent.
“Whatever your disability, you can spend time with your children and be there for them emotionally, and that is crucial.”