Family Support Services

Family Support Services

Respond’s Families service supports family members of people with learning disabilities, autism or both who have experienced loss, harm or institutional abuse.

Families of people with learning disabilities autism or both, can face many challenges, which can include fighting for getting the right support, understanding their child or family member, being let down, neglected by services and their family members may also have experienced institutional abuse. Through counselling both face to face or on the phone, groups in which families can meet and be supported by other families to better cope with their experiences. Families feel better understood, less isolated and more connected.

If you are seeking support following the Dispatches Programme 'Under Lock and Key', The Respond support line is open 10.00am to 4.00pm on Thursdays during March. Outside of these times, please read the following document: Support for families

Our charity has worked for over 20 years with people with learning disabilities and their families.

Through various projects here at Respond it was evident that there was a huge demand to work with families, and to accommodate this we have recently been able to set up a Family Services project which allows us to dedicate time to victims and their families who have been affected by Institutional abuse.

The Family service also works very closely with those families who are bereaved through 'Death by Indifference'.

Many of the families that we come into contact with have been inadequately supported by or worse ignored by services, they have no alternative but to have an independent review conducted on why their loved ones died in the way that they did.

At Respond we are able to offer counselling, advocacy, support groups, advice, research into the post traumatic stress that such abuse has upon the family, as well as campaigning on behalf of and alongside the families that we work with. We also have a helpline that has been set up specifically to work with families affected by abuse; Respond's support services are able to support families whose loved ones have experienced institutional abuse.

Please contact Liz Gow for more details on this service.

My Life, My Marriage - ending forced marriage of people with learning disabilities

Looking back over the years, it became clear to the Respond team that there were situations of people with learning disabilities being married, or getting engaged to be married, that did not feel right. Then it started to dawn that these may be cases of forced marriage, and that there are situations where people with learning disabilities are vulnerable to forced marriage.

What is Respond doing to end forced marriage?

For the last ten years or so, Respond has been raising awareness, training and campaigning to end forced marriage and address the risk to people with learning disabilities. The effort to end forced marriage directly engages people with learning disabilities, their parents and professionals about forced marriage. In 2009, the Respond Action Group, an advisory panel of people with learning disabilities to Respond, developed an accessible booklet that was generously supported by the Home Office.

As the campaign progressed and more sophisticated intelligence was available on forced marriage, it became clear that some communities within certain cultures and traditions were particularly high risk for people with learning disabilities. They might be vulnerable to be forced into marriage within their families, and that their vulnerability is exploited for financial reasons, visas or residential status. Research indicates that the incidence of forced marriage is vastly under-reported.

My Life, My Marriage was launched in 2015 to focus greater resource and attention on ending forced marriage. With funding from Trust for London, the project engages people with learning disabilities, their parents and community leaders from high risk communities on forced marriage to recognise the warning signs, to understand 'capacity to consent' and to increase understanding of safe and healthy relationships. Professionals and key stakeholders across all sectors are trained in safeguarding people at risk, legislation and on cultural appropriateness and faith sensibility.

My Life My Marriage leaflet

My Life, My Marriage is active in four London Boroughs, i.e. Newham, Tower Hamlets, Camden and Waltham Forest. The project has succeeded in establishing strong links with the high risk affected communities of Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian in these boroughs. Feedback with users of our service indicates positive improvements in knowledge, a more skilfull, sensitive approach and a changed attitude towards people with learning disabilities and the risk of forced marriage.

There remains much to be done to change attitude and behaviour....

For the past decade, Respond has educated, informed, influenced and campaigned to change hearts and minds to bring an end to forced marriage. Forced marriage, particularly as it affects people with learning disabilities, continues to be one of the least understood forms of violence that requires considerable research and a robust local response.

Research is essential to ending forced marriage and Respond is delighted to be a research partner on My Marriage My Choice. This is a two year study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research - School of Social Care Research lead by the University of Nottingham in association with University of Kent and the Ann Craft Trust.

For more information and questions about My Life My Marriage, please contact Luthfa Khan, Project Lead on 0207 874 5486 or email Luthfa Khan.

My Life My Marriage at Conferences and Events

  • 2 November 2016 - Sharing Good Practice and Learning Across Europe: A day of discussion with international speakers on 'honour' based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation'. Organised by IKWRO, London
  • 16 November 2016 - Faith, Disability and Safeguarding National Conference. Organised by Include Me Too, Leicester