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Roles and responsibilities - points to consider

'They were more informative and helpful towards the wife... [she] kept saying, 'Speak to my husband, he's the one that takes them out'.'

Quote taken from Carpenter, 2007


  • may not be visible to practitioners in their parenting role.
  • are not often asked about their support needs.
  • receive little support to look after their health or cope with stress; their main source of support is their partner.
  • find it hard to develop new support networks.
  • from lower socio-economic groups may find it harder to achieve the involvement they want, but still need opportunities.

Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities/ Towers and Swift, 2006

Look at fathers in a new light
A father and his two children

'I'm the only man there... they do talk a lot more to my wife than to me... sometimes I do feel a bit out of it then.'

Quote taken from Carpenter, 2007

  • Challenge assumptions of fathers as 'secondary carers'.
  • View fathers as a resource for the whole family who bring unique perspectives and sets of skills to the task of caring.
  • Recognise the diversity of fathers.
  • Invest in fathers as carers as an effective way of supporting families and disabled children.
Fathers' interactions with practitioners
A father smiling

'When [my daughter] was first diagnosed, I think for the first four years... I threw myself into work, so there was a sort of slight running away... But since then, since I now know there's a real need and... there's a defined role really. I make a difference to [my daughter].'

Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, 2006

  • Fathers value contact with practitioners where this leads to improved outcomes for their children.
  • Fathers give high priority to attending meetings and appointments.
  • At meetings fathers were not always being respected and treated as an equal partner.
Recognising fathers

'Fatherhood needs to be offered status and equality, and the fathers of disabled children warrant respect and support.'

Carpenter, 2007

Nick Gore, summarising outcomes from the Foundation for Learning Disabilities 2009 'Recognising fathers' survey, suggests that practitioners need to:

  • 'Be mindful of fathers' work commitments, and reflect this when organising appointments.
  • Explicitly recognise fathers' contributions in meetings and respect their expertise.
  • Recognise that processes of coming to terms with the child's needs may be different for fathers and mothers.
  • Be aware of potential sources of emotional, financial and employment support for fathers and signpost wherever possible.'

Gore, 2010

Father-specific support
Portrait of a father

Father-specific support is valued by fathers of children and young people with learning difficulties. Following a 'fun day' organised for fathers and their children, which they found enjoyable and supportive, two fathers commented on the benefits of fathers supporting other fathers:

'I've said loads and loads of times that there should be a sort of like a father support [group]... somewhere where dads can just drop in and have a chat...'

'That's what it's about: passing information on. I think men, once they break the ice and get to know it all, then yeah, the information starts flowing - it just takes a bit longer, really.'

Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities / Towers and Swift, 2006

Helping fathers in practice
A father and his two children

Read the following advice to practitioners from the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities.

Recognising fathers - ideas for practitioners (Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, 2009)

Reflect on your own practice in the light of their suggestions and detail changes that could be made. Consider how your school could make changes.

  • When fathers are the sole or main carer with a limited support network, what additional help could be provided?
  • What opportunities could be provided for fathers to meet each other: fathers' groups, events for them and their children, courses and development programmes?
  • What support could help to sustain relationships between partners?