Blossoming Forth in Middlesborough

Writing this on my way home from an event in Middlesborough run by our colleagues at Community Catalysts, which brought together people running, supporting or just generally interested in micro-enterprises. (There will be similar events in Sheffield and Bristol).

We heard from Chaz and Joanne, two parents who have set up Blossom Forth, a micro-enterprise which helps meet families’ specialist childcare needs, whilst also creating employment opportunities for parents who themselves have disabled children. Joanne explained that parents of disabled children often struggle to find childcare which can meet their child’s needs and are wary of relying on childminders who have no experience of disabilities or specific training. Blossom Forth teamed up with Tyneside Met College to provide a group of parents with training on everything from confidence, to disability awareness and time management. Some of the parents lacked confidence: as Chaz put it, “I felt very isolated and although I’d left school with 12 GCSEs and four A Levels, my goals took a back burner when I had kids and I didn’t trust other people to look after my eldest son who has additional needs. The course showed me that I can be more than only a parent.” Chaz is training to be able to provide childcare to disabled children, which will be her route back into employment but will also help her to support parents who are struggling with many of the challenges of which she has personal experience. Joanne and her colleagues have high hopes for Blossom Forth and bags of the faith and energy which all successful entrepreneurs need: “We didn’t have any start-up money or people with the right qualifications. Community Catalysts found us a solution which was to run initially as a service introducing parents to childminders and to do some market testing. I’ve no doubt that we will become a successful enterprise.”

Are parents with learning disabilities set up to fail?

NAAPS CEO Alex Fox used his latest Community Care column to tackle what he called the ‘hidden national scandal’ of support services for parents with learning disabilities. Whilst documents such as Think Local, Act Personal set out a vision in which people who have support needs are entitled to pursue ordinary lives and enjoy equal rights, choice and control can be in short supply when people with learning disabilities want to have children.

Whilst children’s services can be swift to identify risk, neither adults’ nor children’s services are well equipped to assess that risk without prejudice nor to provide timely, accessible support and buck-passing is common. Parents with learning disabilities are routinely asked to demonstrate their parenting competence in the alien and stressful environment of an assessment centre and given information which they cannot read or understand.

One parent was taught to bottle-feed her baby, but not about weaning, with the result that nutrition and neglect concerns arose later on: she was still bottle feeding exactly as she’d been instructed.

Traditional services are usually deemed too expensive to provide the out of hours support which would allay children’s services’ safeguarding concerns. Parents with mild learning disabilities may wrongly be deemed ineligible for adults’ services. Shared Lives has been shown to have the potential to end that catch-22 situation, because it is an affordable Continue reading