Accessibility statement

Parents and their communities

Parents and their Communities is a two-year collaborative project, involving the University of York and self-advocacy groups from York and Calderdale. We are working in partnership with City of York and Calderdale Councils to explore the potential for, and to understand how, asset-based approaches can engage with and support parents with learning difficulties.

Research team: Dr Katie Graham, Dr Jenny Threlfall, Dr Hannah Jobling, School for Business and Society, University of York
Co-Investigators: York People First, Stephen Lee Hodgkins
Funder: National Institute for Health Research - Research for Patient Benefit
Duration: September 2019 to September 2021   

Project summary

Background to the research

Local Authorities have a responsibility to protect children and support families. Recent policy developments have encouraged prevention and early intervention where there are concerns about the welfare of children. This has prompted Local Authorities to look towards the community as a resource.

By building on resources that are already there in communities, Local Authorities aim to help individuals and communities achieve positive social change for themselves. Instead of focusing on what is wrong in a community, these approaches seek to build on strengths that individuals and groups possess. However, very little is known about how these approaches can support parents who have learning difficulties who may be in need of a range of support.


The aim of this research is to explore how resource focused approaches can support parents with learning difficulties. We want to find out about resources that are available in our two project sites and about the characteristics of community resources that are useful for parents with learning difficulties. This information will help a range of organisations adapt their services for parents with learning difficulties.

In the longer term, this project will inform future research to identify evidence-based approaches to support parents with learning difficulties.

Design and methods

Our project will be based at two sites in the north of England. We will have conversations with parents with learning difficulties and professionals who work with them. We will hold focus groups in which we will make maps of all the community resources that are helpful to parents with learning difficulties in the area. We will also talk with the parents about their lives and experiences of being a parent, using walking tours and photographs as part of the conversations.

Patient and public involvement

This project has been devised in collaboration with self-advocates and we will work closely with two self-advocacy groups for people with learning difficulties, who are funded research partners, in conducting the research and in producing resources. Members of the self-advocacy groups will work with the researchers to run discussion groups and four workshops over the course of the project.


This project will produce two practice resources. These will be i) local community maps of the resources available to parents with learning difficulties in the research sites, and ii) a good practice guide that will make our findings available nationally. The guide will provide information about how to make resource-focused approaches accessible for parents with learning difficulties.

At the end of our project, we will hold an event in which we will bring together our partners and others who are interested in parents with learning difficulties. We will share our learning from our project and discuss next steps for research and practice with parents with learning difficulties.

Here the project team reflect upon their experiences of the current Coronavirus crisis, the challenges for the project and their plans for the next few months:


Related links  

Publications and presentations from the project are available from the York Research Database

Latest publications:

Parents with learning difficulties and their communities (PDF , 4,517kb)

Parents with learning difficulties and their communities:Easy Read (PDF , 4,484kb)

The research sits within the School for Business and Society's Applied Health and Social Care, and Children, Young People and Families research themes.  

Please contact Dr Katie
 for more information.