Care Proceedings & Learning Disabled Parents

Abigail Bond is a family barrister practising from St John’s Chambers in Bristol*. She is the author of “Care Proceedings and Learning Disabled Parents – A Handbook for Family Lawyers”, recently published by Family Law (Jordans).

The handbook is an interesting read and a useful guide to common aspect of care work which all too frequently is not given the attention or thought that it requires.

The book deals with the matter of parental learning difficulty from a number of angles – not just the areas with which many practitioners will be familiar, such as  the assessment of capacity and appointment of the Official Solicitor. For example, it provides a comprehensive overview of the duties of Local Authorities to provide services to learning disabled adults, including the provision of support services to assist them with their parenting. It sets out carefully the appropriate approach to acting for adults without capacity, and the parameters within which representatives and litigation friends must operate. Topics also discussed and highlighted as important matters for lawyers to consider in these cases are the impact of learning disability upon a parent’s ability to engage with their legal team, to work constructively with other professionals and participate fully in court proceedings and assessments, and the capacity of a parent to achieve good enough parenting with appropriate and adequate support.

Abigail summarises a range of research and statistical data in respect of learning disabled adults, the statistics around their involvement in care proceedings and outcomes and interrogates the assumption that learning disabled parents cannot achieve good enough parenting, challenging professionals to focus on whether learning disabled parents can be good enough if good enough support is offered. There is a wealth of statistical, legislative and regulatory information, best practice guidance and relevant authorities, all of which help to place the issues into a broader context and give the representatives of learning disabled parents a clear framework within which to confidently work.

Having read this book I have left refocused on how I can best advocate on behalf of parents, what approach I should adopt and should encourage the court, and other professionals to adopt, and have conveniently at my fingertips all the ammunition and resources I am likely to require in deploying various arguments on behalf of clients in order to secure appropriate assessment, support and due consideration. I think the book is likely to be useful for lawyers representing not just parents, but also children and Local Authorities. It would be an informative read and useful reference tool for any public law Guardian, or Judge.

It is not a lengthy read, but it is none the worse for that – it does contain everything you could need in respect of the subject it tackles. And at only £55 it’s an excellent proposition all round.

*declaration of interest – St John’s is also my own chambers, and Abigail is a colleague.


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