HC Deb 26 April 2004 vol 420 cc806-7W
Bob Spink

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what level of IQ would as a general rule indicate that a pregnant woman, without a partner, is so severely learning disabled her child should be removed at birth for adoption; whether the support and help of the woman's parents would be a factor in the decision; and if he will make a statement; [165102]

(2) what his policy is on the care of children whose parent or parents have moderate learning difficulties; and if he will make a statement; [165103]

(3) what support is offered to mothers with learning difficulties to assist them to retain care of their children; and if he will make a statement; [165104]

(4 what (a) redress and (b) support is available to pregnant women with learning difficulties who are faced with the forced removal of their child at birth for adoption; and if he will make a statement. [165105]

Margaret Hodge

A general duty is placed on local authorities by section 17 of the Children Act 1989 to safeguard and promote the welfare of children under 18 who are in need by providing a range of services appropriate to meeting those needs.

Assessments undertaken by local authorities of children who may be in need focus on the needs of the child, the capacity of the parents and wider environmental factors, rather than solely on the characteristics of the parents. Whether or not any particular child is considered to be in need will depend upon the individual circumstances, taking all relevant factors into consideration.

The White Paper "Valuing People" (2001) recognises that "social services have a duty to safeguard the welfare of children and in some circumstances a parent with learning disabilities will not be able to meet their child's needs. However, we believe that this should not be the result of agencies not arranging for appropriate and timely support". This means that the removal of children from parents with learning difficulties should be rare, but may be necessary in particular instances.

Learning disability, whether moderate or severe, does not necessarily indicate that a person will be unable to care for their child, with adequate support where necessary. Factors such as communication skills and social functioning are also important.

Later this year there will be a conference on parenting, run by parents with learning disabilities, and supported by the Government and the learning disability voluntary organisation CHANGE.