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Researcher backs the ‘invisible parent’

17 Gorffennaf 2009

Child on someones shoulders

A Cardiff University academic is calling for social, health and educational services to give more attention to the role and rights of fathers in the care of children with learning disabilities.

Rohan Kariyawasam, a senior lecturer from Cardiff Law School, who is part of the Recognising Fathers Advisory Group for the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities (part of the Mental Health Foundation), believes fathers can often become the ‘invisible parent’ when caring for children with learning disabilities. He argues that current policies and practices often fail to acknowledge or support them in their role as carers.

Rohan, who has a young son with learning disabilities himself and has been an advisor to the Foundation since 2006 argues, that although the landmark Coleman judgement last year has given increased attention to the role and rights of carers, the father’s role is too often ignored, a view that is further evidenced in the a new national survey of fathers who have children with learning disabilities by the Foundation – Recognising Fathers.

The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities’ latest report presents the experiences of more than 250 fathers of children with learning disabilities. The report finds that fathers often respond differently to mothers when they receive a diagnosis that their child has a learning disability. At the time of diagnosis, and in the years ahead, support for their roles as carers is usually geared more towards mothers than fathers. It also provides a ‘Need2Know’ briefing for policy makers, commissioners and services.

The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities is now seeking additional funding to carry out research on some of the problem areas identified.

Rohan is currently researching the rights of the elderly and those with disabilities when accessing services on-line, and building on his AHRC award completed in 2007 when he looked at the rights of children with learning disabilities in gaining access to information communications technologies as educational aids in the classroom.

For more information about the project and a downloadable copy of the report, please visit the Foundation’s website.

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