Parental Responsibility and Parental Support

If you’ve never had a baby, it may be difficult to imagine what it is like. There is much preparation beforehand with scans and regular check-ups. There are also classes which focus predominantly on birth giving as well as baby showers where friends and relatives give you tiny clothing and other gifts.

Unless you undertake a lot of reading or have experience with child-rearing, you are pretty much on your own after giving birth. Amazingly, the hospital staff just let you walk away with some tips and coupons and an entirely helpless small human being in a carrier. That’s not to say that the National Health Service (NHS) staff are in any way responsible for the system. The Gynaecologists, Obstetricians, nurses, midwives and health visitors all do a wonderful job, but many of them are stretched to breaking point with more women, children and families on their caseload and less resources. While women used to get regular home visits, these have been reduced as pressures on the NHS have increased. Then there’s the issue of premature babies, babies with health issues, mothers who experience difficulty bonding or breastfeeding and fathers who feel helpless or not engaged at all. As you can imagine, in addition to joy, there is often a lot of heartbreak and anxiety.

There is also a duty in law called parental responsibility. You have it when you are a parent whether you like it or not. With approximately 30% of pregnancies in the UK unplanned, it is paramount that parents receive the best support they can get. As the parent of two adults, I can attest that being a parent is not a bed of roses. I was happily in a good relationship when I became pregnant, and we both looked forward to being parents. However, both of my children were anaemic when they were born, and the older one had colic – a condition believed to be the result of an immature digestive system. Further, I had problems with breastfeeding. I don’t think that I’m alone in feeling that I did scramble around to get the information and support that I needed to be able to look after my children well and, without the support of my partner, I would have been in trouble.

When I look around and see parents or single mothers trying to cope with children with issues, I think that we could do a better job supporting them. In particular, I see parents of children born with medical conditions like leukaemia, epilepsy, autism, learning disabilities, and attention deficit disorder or those who develop mental health conditions who are struggling to cope. Often, a diagnosis does not result in increased support or specialist training and information.

We have to do more to support our parents. Instead of seeing them as a drain on our resources, we need to step in early to support them so that they and their children get the help they need. Better and earlier interventions may also result in reducing the impact on the NHS and social care system in the future which will benefit us all. I feel so strongly about this that I have put together an emergency motion for conference calling for increased training for parents as well as support groups and individual support.



* Gillian Douglass is a member of Tunbridge Wells Liberal Democrats

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  • John Marriott 29th Aug '18 - 6:52pm

    You need a licence to drive a car. You usually need some sort of qualification to get a reasonable job. What do you need to become a parent? (My response would probably not pass the LDV editor – but I’m sure the less PC amongst you could provide the answer!)

    At one time schools used to attempt to teach ‘parenthood’ and so called ‘life skills’.
    I bet they got squeezed out in favour of more academic subjects long ago; but I may be wrong – I often am. In any case I’m sure that many of the educational zealots would have viewed such subjects as too ‘middle class’ to warrant attention.

    Gillian mentions “single mums”. As someone whose mum died when he was eleven and was brought up afterwards by his dad, let’s not forget the male variety. However, it is predominantly mums…SO where are those dads? Those that do, for whatever reason, shouldn’t just be allowed to walk away from their responsibilities; but many do and are.

  • Peter Hirst 30th Aug '18 - 1:42pm

    If every child was planned and wanted, many of the issues would be lessened. I would rather emphasise relationship education including what having a child entails and more widespread free contraception including morning after and abortion. Having a child is a huge responsibility not only to yourself but to the country and world.

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