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Funding boost to help parents with disabilities

Press release issued: 1 July 2016

A project led by the University of Bristol, which helps professionals better support parents with learning disabilities, will continue and expand thanks to funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

The Working Together with Parents Network (WTPN) is a collaboration between the Norah Fry Centre for Disability Studies at the University of Bristol, Learning Disability Wales, and the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability (SCLD).

The three-year, £462,000 grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation will enable the Network to ensure that the perspectives, needs and rights of parents with learning difficulties are routinely reflected in all relevant family policies, practices and procedures.

It will also equip WTPN national and regional groups to become a key resource for other professionals and able to challenge unfair policies and practices locally.

Project lead Beth Tarleton, from the Norah Fry Centre for Disability Studies, said: "Parents with learning difficulties and their children experience significant discrimination and disadvantage. While there is established positive practice in supporting these parents, provision is still poor. 

"The good practice that exists is threatened by the current financial climate, the failure by policy makers to consider these parents' needs and by professionals' lack of awareness of parents' support needs. We are therefore extremely grateful to the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation for this grant, which will allow us to continue to bring about positive change for parents with learning difficulties and their families."

The WTPN aims to become the primary source of UK expertise on matters relating to parents with learning difficulties.

The grant will help fund policy officers to raise awareness of the impact national strategy and policies have on parents with learning difficulties and the professionals who work with them, and to enable them to influence change where needed.

Chris Creegan, Chief Executive of the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability (SCLD), said: "We are very excited about the opportunities created by this funding. We have run the WTPN in Scotland since 2007.  This funding will enable us to consolidate the network across Scotland and work with partners in England and Wales to build an evidence base about what works and drive good practice.

"The funding enables us to bring in dedicated policy expertise to support the development of local and national policy relating to families where parents have a learning disability.

"Many of these parents struggle to get the information and the support they need to become effective parents.  We're eager to build on the great work that's been accomplished in this area so far, including the Scottish Good Practice Guidelines and the Guide to Supported Parenting that SCLD have produced on behalf of the Network. These publications offer practical recommendations about delivering the kind of support that parents need."

Jim Crowe, from For Learning Disability Wales, added: "We are really excited by the opportunities this project will give. Parents with learning difficulties face many challenges and need professionals who fully understand and can support them. The project will help professionals make a positive difference for parents with learning difficulties."

Further information

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation aims to improve the quality of life for people and communities throughout the UK both now and in the future. It does this by funding the charitable work of organisations with the ideas and ability to achieve positive change. 

The Foundation is one of the largest independent grant-makers in the UK.  It makes grants of £30 - £35 million annually towards a wide range of work within the arts, children and young people, the environment and social change. It also commits up to £35 million in social investments in organisations that aim to deliver both a financial return and a social benefit.

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