Support for parents with disabilities
To arrange the support you may need as a parent with disabilities, the place to start is the adult social services team in your local Health and Social Care Trust. This is a different team to the 'children and families team'.
Health and social care assessments and the parenting role
A person with disabilities has the right to ask for an assessment of their health and social care needs. If you have parenting responsibilities for a child under 18, the assessment of your needs should also cover the support you need to carry out these responsibilities. If you are a parent-to-be, you can let the social services team know about your situation before your baby is born. This will help them plan your support.
Social services are not there to assume that you are unable to cope or that you will not be a good parent. Decisions about the support offered should focus on how to help you in your parenting role.
It's important to remember that your assessment as a person/parent with disabilities is about your needs. If you receive the right support, your child's needs will be met without the need for services from the 'children and families team'.
It's a good idea to prepare for an assessment by making a list of the type of support you need. For example:
- help to care for your baby in your home - such as at bath time
- equipment, like adapted pushchairs
- changes to your home
- help with getting your child ready for, and to, nursery or school
- Health and social care assessments
Direct payments - arranging your own care and services
If you are assessed as needing help from social services you may choose direct payments. Direct payments allow you to arrange and pay for your own care and services instead of receiving them directly from your local authority. This includes help from a professional carer or personal assistant.
This gives you more flexibility, which may help you in your parenting role.
Other people in the family
If a friend, a relative - including your own child - or your spouse or partner gives you a regular and substantial amount of caring or help around the house, they have the right to a carer's assessment.
If a child is regularly carrying out substantial caring for you, this should lead to an assessment of your support needs.
Most parents with disabilities - including parents with a learning disability or mental health problem - lead successful and fulfilling lives as parents, calling on the support they have been assessed as needing.
A social services team should not make a judgement on your ability or 'capacity' to be a parent without first assessing, and then offering via a care plan, your need for support. In a situation where children cannot live with a parent(s), or a child's well-being needs to be reviewed, it would need to be shown that it is not because of a lack of support to you.
Children 'in need'
Children should not necessarily be identified as 'in need' because one or both parents have a disability, although this could be a factor.
However, if there are concerns about a child's well-being, a 'child in need' assessment will be done. This is managed by the 'children and families team' in your local council and looks at the family as a whole.
A rough guide to what a 'child in need' means (in The Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995) is a child under 17 whose health and development is likely to be made significantly worse without support and services.