Parents with learning disabilities or autism will be given access to a Parent Advocate to assist them in child protection and care cases, thanks to a grant of £23,625 from West Wales Freemasons.
The grant will fund a part-time Parent Advocate role, who will work with parents for at least six months. The Advocate will provide professional, independent representation for parents, working with them to examine choices and connect with service providers. They attend meetings with or instead of their clients, which requires specialist knowledge of the legal and care system and an understanding of the emotional needs of the parents.
Pembrokeshire People First is very aware of the high numbers of parents requiring an advocacy service. Last year there were seven families supported by the charity, with a further two not receiving help because of a lack of capacity. Over the period of the grant, an expected 12-15 extra clients will be supported.
There are no accurate figures for parents with learning disabilities or autism in Wales (source: Learning Disability Wales). What is known is that many parents are reluctant to seek the support they need for fear of having their child removed by the authorities. A recent report says that these parents lose their children in half of all cases.
However, there is mounting evidence to show that with the right support in place, people with learning disabilities can be successful parents. Unfortunately, decisions about their ability to look after children are often made without the parents having access to any independent support or advocacy.
The grant from West Wales Freemason comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.
Karen Chandler from Pembrokeshire People First said:
“We’re very grateful to West Wales Freemasons for their generous grant which will help to give a voice to parents who often have lost their children simply because the authorities make assumptions about their abilities to look after them. Just because you have a learning disability doesn’t mean you can’t be a successful parent.”
Stephen Hookey from West Wales Freemasons said:
“We’re very pleased to be able to help Pembrokeshire People First, who do really outstanding work helping some of the most vulnerable people in our community. Even the most confident and articulate parents can find it daunting to deal with social workers and chid protection hearings. For those with learning difficulties it can be a terrifying experience.”