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Wednesday, 08 February 2017

Concern over pressure on parents of children with learning disabilities

Written by Jane Kirby

One in three parents of a child with a learning disability is in a "distressed relationship", according to a new report.

This is higher than the level of distress in relationships among the general population - put at one in four.

The study, from Relate, Relationships Scotland and Mencap, found people who have a child with a learning disability are also more likely to feel lonely, have less time for date nights and have money worries.

The research included responses from more than 5,000 people, including 280 parents of a child with a learning disability.

It found that 24% of parents of a child with a learning disability go on a date night less than once a year, compared to 17% of parents in other relationships.

Some 39% identified money worries as putting a strain on their relationship, compared to 29% of other parents.

And 22% at least occasionally regretted being in their relationship, compared to 14% of other parents.

Chris Sherwood, chief executive of Relate, said: "We all face challenges in our relationships, but our research shows that parents who have a child with a learning disability face additional pressures.

"Unhappy relationships can have a terrible impact on couples and their children but it doesn't have to be this way. At Relate, we know how counselling can benefit parents of children with a learning disability and we need to make sure it's available, as part of a wider package of support, to families who need it."

Jan Tregelles, chief executive of Mencap, said: "Having a child with a learning disability is not the guarantee of hardship that many would have us believe. Despite this, many families are living without access to necessary support and interventions which can be the difference in a family reaching breaking point or not.

"As a society, we have a lot to learn about how to deal with disability.

"Public attitudes can lead to parents feeling isolated and authorities too often see the child as the problem.

"But we know that if parents are able to get the right help, such as financial support and better access to short breaks and extra childcare, poorer family wellbeing is not inevitable, and, in fact, these families' relationships can really flourish."

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