Research in Practice

For the third Research in Practice Blog I have focused on the complex and often challenging area of working with parents with learning difficulties. It is something I know from personal experience is a challenging area of social work that often comes with moral and ethical challenges compounded by a lack of awareness of available resources and support.

Research in Practice has some resources on its Children’s side of their website, but a majority of the useful resources are on their Adult’s (luckily Knowsley subscribe to both and so you can access these on the RIP adult’s website). I have reviewed their resources and given an overview/synopsis of the most useful/relevant, below. In addition to this I have also made links to the resources that I and other colleagues have found useful when working with parents with learning difficulties as well as an overview of the PAMS assessment that we use as a local authority to assess parents with Learning Disabilities.

In response to a need for easy access resources Research in Practice (RIP) have developed their Strategic Briefing publications, a document that provides a snapshot with links to resources, legislation, policy, theory, model, etc. I have provided a link to their Briefing on Parents with Learning disabilities below.

Strategic Briefing:

Working with parents who have a learning disability (

The briefing is a useful introduction to working with Parents with learning difficulties, it isn’t to lengthy and it provides useful links. The Briefing covers the following areas:

  • Context
  • Parents with Learning Disabilities
  • The views of children of parents with LD
  • Involvement with Children’s Social Care
  • Identification and assessment of neglect
  • Working with neglect
  • Commissioning and leading effective services for parents with learning disabilities
  • The Good Practice Guidance forward: A framework for practice
  • Coordinated multiagency working
  • Appendix 1: Policy and Legal Framework for Supporting Parents with Learning Disabilities
  • Appendix 2: Basic audit of policies and practices in relation to parents with learning disabilities for commissioners and strategic managers

Research in Practice resources:

Case Law:

Link to recent legal summaries and case law, December 2020, including a summary of case concerning  a pregnancy of a Woman with complex learning needs: Research in Practice


Risks, Rights and the role of the state: Parents with learning disabilities – Understanding work with parents who have a learning disability and what effective practice might look like.

Synopsis – Dez Holmes, Director of Research in Practice talks to Danielle Turney and Beth Tarleton, the authors of our Strategic Briefing: Supporting parents with learning difficulties. They discuss working with parents who have a learning disability, how understanding has changed over time and what effective practice might look like.

Risks, rights and the role of the state: Parents with learning disabilities (

I have had the chance to listen to the Podcast and it covers a lot of the practical issues around co working with the adults’ teams, support in the community and the benefits of early intervention. There is also a focus on ethical and moral dilemmas. The participants are from both academic and front-line backgrounds and they discuss their own challenges of working with parents with learning difficulties.

Good practice Guidance

Good practice guidance on working with parents with a learning disability (2007):

Resources available in Knowsley

Provide a number of services, including support groups for adults with learning disabilities, but they also offer courses in Maths, English, Science and Managing Money. Anyone who has had a PAMS assessment back will understand how difficult it can be to find an appropriate course on these areas for parents, that are often recommended in outcomes. Contacts: Keri Romano –, Tel: 07946318898 or Ruth Clemson Ruth Clemson,, Tel: 07946318876

PAMS assessment

In recent years there has been a growing use of the PAMS (Parenting Assessment Manual Software), Judges and Guardians often order PAMS assessments when there is evidence or concerns that a parent or parents have a learning or cognitive disability or severe mental health issue. The assessment is designed to provide a consistent and affective way to assess a parent’s capacity to meet the basic needs of a child as well as to keep them safe from a specific risk and meet their emotional needs. The assessment is tailored to the number and age of the children. The assessment uses pictures of scenarios and situation as well as directed questions to gain an understanding of a parent’s capacity.

Steps of a PAMS assessment:

  • To inform whether a PAMS assessment it is necessary and to also guide the assessment pace and communication approach a Cognitive assessment should be completed, prior to any assessment.
  • Children’s Social Worker – Completes the PAMS screening tool and scores parents’ capacity on 14 areas of parenting.
  • PAMs assessor will complete the “I Need Help” form with parents and this identifies the parent’s knowledge and insight into any parenting issues.
  • PAMs assessment is completed with parents, recommended timescale 10 -12 weeks and includes direct observations as well as the completion of two workbook, including visual and written questions.
  • The outcome is not measured as a Pass or fail but will identify the area’s where support is needed and recommend interventions that need to be completed in these areas. However, the analysis can and often will indicate the likelihood of a significant impact and a parent’s capacity to complete this within the timescales of the child.

Social Work Book Club

Due to Lockdown and not being in the office together it has been difficult to run the book club but I’m considering trying to do this remotely with “Known to Social Services” by Freya Barrington.

2015 LONDON BOOK FESTIVAL WINNER and HONORABLE MENTION in the 2016 PARIS BOOK FESTIVAL Written from life experience and ringing with authenticity, Known to Social Services, winner of the 2015 London Book Festival and an Honourable Mention in the 2016 Paris Book Festival, follows Diane Foster, a dedicated social worker, into the grim, grey world of the Deacon Hill estate in Millbrook and the tormented lives of its inhabitants.

If anyone is interested please send me an email and I will arrange for a copy to be sent out, first come first served.

As usual if you are having any issues with logging or finding anything please let me know via email ( or if you have a specific topic that you think we should cover