PARENTS with learning disabilities or autism in Pembrokeshire will be given a voice, thanks to funding of £23,625.

The grant, from West Wales Freemasons, will fund a part-time advocate who will work with parents for at least six months.

According to Pembrokeshire People First, parents with learning disabilities are reluctant to seek the support they need for fear of having their child removed by the authorities.

A recent report says that these parents lose their children in half of all cases.

However, there is mounting evidence to show that with the right support in place, people with learning disabilities can be successful parents.

Unfortunately, decisions about their ability to look after children are often made without the parents having access to any independent support or advocacy.

This funding will provide professional, independent representation for parents, working with them to examine their choices and help them connect with organisations that could help.

They attend meetings with or instead of their clients, which requires specialist knowledge of the legal and care system and an understanding of the emotional needs of the parents.

Karen Chandler of Pembrokeshire People First said: “We’re very grateful to West Wales Freemasons for their generous grant which will help to give a voice to parents who often have lost their children simply because assumptions are made about their abilities to look after them.

"Just because you have a learning disability doesn’t mean you can’t be a successful parent.”

Stephen Hookey from West Wales Freemasons said: “We’re very pleased to be able to help Pembrokeshire People First, who do really outstanding work helping some of the most vulnerable people in our community. "Even the most confident and articulate parents can find it daunting to deal with social workers and child protection hearings.

"For those with learning difficulties it can be a terrifying experience.”

Over the period of the grant, an expected 12 to 15 extra clients will be supported.