Enquire is a lifeline for parents who are struggling and need help as far as educational policies and law are concerned
Robert Brown, Parent Carer Development Officer, Lanarkshire Carers Centre
Looking after a child with additional support needs can be stressful for parent carers and it’s easy for them to forget to look after themselves. That’s why Robert Brown from the Princess Royal Trust Lanarkshire Carers Centre is very pleased that his role as Parent Carer Development Officer has recently been developed.
Robert explains, “One of my main roles is to provide a bridge between the needs of the child and the needs of the parent carers and in particular between all the different services that might be supporting the child.”
Robert goes on “There is a lot of fantastic work being done by professionals under Getting it Right For Every Child (GIRFEC). What’s crucial is that services don’t miss the needs of parent carers. Ensuring their needs are met – that they are looking after themselves mentally and physically and that they have all the information they need – can only be good for the children in the family. Parents of children with additional support needs are often coping with issues other families don’t have to worry about – their child may be ill, may not sleep that much, have behavioural problems or be experiencing problems at school. Getting it right for parents carers IS getting it right for every child.”
As well as raising awareness with parents carers themselves Robert also spends time raising awareness with professionals who work closely with families. “I am out and about a lot. I work with GPs and other health staff including health visitors and hospital support staff. I’ve also done a lot of work with education staff including headteachers, primary, secondary and pre-school staff. I also work with community learning and development and voluntary sector staff. I really work with any organisation that works with families.”
Robert is committed to ensuring that parent carers get the support they need as early as possible. “There is a real focus in my job on working with staff in early intervention services to make sure that parent carers needs are considered as soon as possible too.”
Robert and the other carer support staff at the Carers Centre report that education is a big worry for many parent carers. “ A lot of the questions we get are about diagnosis of additional support needs and support in school. We signpost parent carers to Enquire if they have a question about additional support for learning and we can help them cope with the stress involved in looking after their child while they are waiting for a diagnosis or as they deal with issues with the school.”
There are some unique challenges in his role. “It’s not always easy to persuade parent carers to access the help that is available. Some parents are really worried that if they admit they are not coping their children will be removed from them.” Robert explains, “ There is still stigma attached to asking for help. As support isn’t always universally available, it can be difficult for parents to feel confident to ask for help.”
So how did Robert find himself in this role, “I’ve always worked with children and young people with disabilities both in residential and child and family settings. I then studied social pedagogy for four years and so after finishing my degree was very excited to work in an organisation that supports families.”
And the best thing about his job? “My job is listening to parent carers needs and having the opportunity to feedback their needs whilst raising awareness with the people who can make the necessary changes to service provision. It’s also very satisfying to help parent carers feel better supported to manage in their caring role”.