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The loaded die: Parenting with learning disabilities and the role of the midwife in Scotland

02 January 2019
Volume 27 · Issue 1


An increasing number of women with learning disabilities are becoming parents, and have a legal right to do so free from discrimination. By discussing the evidence, this article argues that the health and social care systems of the UK have been historically poor at supporting successful parenting for people with learning disabilities. It discusses the legislative and policy landscape in Scotland that should be changing this situation and considers the role of the midwife within this. It identifies the need for improved training and support for midwives and recognition of the time investment required to provide care for women with learning disabilities if they are avoid a loaded die against their successful parenting from the outset.

A learning disability has been described as a significant, lifelong condition that starts before adulthood and affects a person's development, meaning they need help to understand information, learn skills and cope independently (Scottish Government, 2013). An increasing number of women with learning disabilities are becoming parents (Parish et al, 2015) and have a legal right to do so free from discrimination, in accordance with the Equality Act [2010]. Despite this, health and social care systems in the UK have been arguably poor at supporting successful parenting for people with learning disabilities, as demonstrated by the very high proportion of children removed from parental care because of safeguarding concerns when parental learning disability is present (Booth et al, 2006). The legislative and policy landscape in Scotland should be driving early engagement and supported parenting, with a view to reducing the number of children removed from their parents' care, and this has implications for the role of the midwife and delivery of maternity services.

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