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The role of adult social care for parents with learning disabilities when a child is no longer in their care

About the study

In recent years more attention has been given to the experiences of parents whose children are removed following child protection proceedings. Services in some areas, such as Pause, work with parents who have experienced, or are at risk of, repeated pregnancies that result in their children being removed from their care. However, very little is known about the support that is available to parents with learning disabilities who are in this position. One key source of support could be adult social care but, as research shows, too often it is not available. This project explores examples of where and how adult social care is involved and to what effect, as well as the ways in which practice could be improved.

Several years ago, in 2007, the government (Department of Health and the then Department for Education and Skills) issued Good practice guidance on working with parents with a learning disability to address the lack of effective joint working between adult and children's services. However, the distance between adult and children’s social care continued, leading to the Working Together with Parents Network (WTPN) updating the guidance. Although this update does not have the status of statutory (or legal) guidance, in April 2018 the (then) President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, urged practitioners and judges to consider and apply this guidance. According to the WTPN, the President's Guidance led to the Good Practice Guidance being routinely referred to in care proceedings involving parents with learning disabilities, but it is not known to what extent, if any, it impacts on practice following proceedings that lead to the removal of children. Our research addresses this deficit and the project team will produce updated guidance targeted at social workers in adult and children’s services, practitioners in integrated teams, and at family court lawyers/judiciary. We hope it will be useful to other people supporting parents in this position too, such as advocates and support workers as well as other family members.

Funding and timescale

The NIHR School for Social Care Research has funded this project from March 2022 until December 2023.


The early months of our project will be devoted to an evidence review and a practice review consisting of around 30 interviews with key informants. We shall supplement the data collected in that stage with internet searches, email requests for information, and comments from our partner organisations and members of the Advisory Group to identify models of practice across local authorities to map both practice in local authorities across England and relevant services working with learning disabilities who have had, or are in the process of having, their children removed from their care.

The next stage will be 10 local area case studies where we shall capture data on prevalence as well as the experiences of parents, and / or their representatives, and professionals. The data collected during the case studies will be used in a cost study is intended to show the saving or cost to society of providing or not providing appropriate support

Study partners

  • Working Together with Parents Network (WTPN) an organisation that helps professionals working with parents with learning disabilities
  • Research in Practice (RIP), an organisation supporting practitioners working with parents who have experienced the removal of their children

Advisory Groups

The project will be supported by an expert parents’ group and an advisory group of professionals and interested agencies. We have also set up an international review group.

Please get in touch to be kept informed about the study or if you have any comments or questions by contacting

Project status: Ongoing

Principal investigators

Mary Baginsky

Senior Research Fellow