Review finds individual and family characteristics associated with need for urgent respite

shutterstock_14786077 mother playing with two young children

This review of literature set out to explore the issues relating to families relinquishing the support of their family member with learning disabilities, often at a point of crisis. The review looked at situations where the family member is placed by disability services in respite care until suitable permanent accommodation can be organised or indeed, at the resolution of the crisis, they are able to return to the family home.

The authors found that the literature indicated many families and carers felt that respite needs were not being met. They also suggest that certain individual and family characteristics appeared to be associated with the need for urgent respite, such as severe disability, poor support, and carer distress.

They found very few focusing on the issue of relinquishment of care which clearly makes it difficult to draw clear conclusions. The authors therefore extrapolated from the literature on respite and relinquishment in other client groups. They found that this pointed towards increased requests for respite as an early warning sign for relinquishment. In addition, challenging behaviors, poor coping and lack of support, dire financial concerns and carer distress were key factors that often led to relinquishment.

Positive interventions found to be helpful in supporting  families considering relinquishment or who had relinquished care were active support and cognitive behavioral therapy.

The authors conclude that respite allocations must be regular and planned in accordance to the needs of families if they are to maximise their benefit from such services. Given the paucity of literature, they also call for more research on this issue to expand the current knowledge base and to identify strategies support families more effectively.

Respite and Parental Relinquishment of Care: A Comprehensive Review of the Available Literature, Nankervis, K  et al., in Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, 8: 150–162

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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