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Supporting Parents with Learning Disabilities

This new report puts the spotlight on the services that are available for people with learning disabilities who become parents.

Dr Ailsa Stewart and Dr Gillian MacIntyre from the University of Strathclyde were commissioned by the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability (SCLD), on behalf of the Scottish Government, to carry out a scoping exercise to discover what kind of support is made available to these parents, and whether the services meet their needs.

The report  reveals that there may be 5,000 or more parents with learning disabilities living in Scotland.  Between 40% and 60% of parents with learning disabilities have their children removed as a result of being assessed as not meeting a satisfactory standard of parenting. Their children are removed into care, are adopted or fostered, sometimes by a relative.

Ensuring that parents with learning disabilities have access to supported parenting services based on the principles of supported parenting is a recommendation in the Scotland’s learning disability strategy, The keys to life, published in 2013.

Research was commissioned to inform the implementation of the recommendation and specifically to gather evidence about the current quality and scale of provision for these families.  The research found that while there is good practice in some areas, the picture across Scotland is patchy.

It is really important that support for these families is effective. As the report findings show, it can make the difference between a child being able to growing up at home with their parents or not. Features of good practice that should be available consistently across the country include:

  • Support should be for the whole family, and focus on the needs of the parent and the child.
  • Support should be available long term when needed.
  • Support must be flexible to respond to changing needs.
  • Appropriate assessment tools and processes should be used and appropriate support should be provided alongside these to develop parenting skills on an ongoing basis.
  • There needs to be accessible information for parents to ensure meaningful participation.

Chris Creegan, Chief Executive of SCLD, said:


People with learning disabilities should have the same rights to family life as anyone else, and supporting people with learning disabilities has a crucial role to play in making those rights real.

As this report demonstrates, people with learning disabilities face a myriad of challenges when they become parents.

People with learning disabilities can and do become good parents. However, they may require additional support to become the best parents they can be.

The findings of this report are being presented today (17th March) to a range of stakeholders. Following this event, an implementation plan will be developed to promote a consistent delivery of good practice across the country.  At the end of 2018, SCLD will report progress back to the Scottish Government.

To find out more about the report, the Scottish Good Practice Guidelines for Supporting Parents with a Learning Disability, or SCLD’s involvement in issues faced by parents with learning disabilities, please contact Andy Miller (Policy and Implementation Manager) at or on 0141 248 3733.

Download the report and associated documents here:

Supporting Parents with Learning Disabilities in Scotland: Challenges and Opportunities

Key findings