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More recognition needed for fathers of children with learning disabilities

15 July 2009

A Cardiff University academic is calling for social, health and educational services to give more attention to the role and rights of fathers in the care of children with learning disabilities.

Rohan Kariyawasam, a senior lecturer from Cardiff Law School, who is part of the Recognising Fathers Advisory Group for the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities (part of the Mental Health Foundation), believes fathers can often become the ‘invisible parent’ when caring for children with learning disabilities. He argues that current policies and practices often fail to acknowledge or support them in their role as carers.

Rohan who has a young son with learning disabilities himself and has been an advisor to the Foundation since 1996 argues that although the landmark Coleman judgement last year has given increased attention to the role and rights of carers, the father’s role is too often ignored, a view that is further evidenced in the a new national survey of fathers who have children with learning disabilities by the Foundation - Recognising Fathers.

The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities’ latest report presents the experiences of more than 250 fathers of children with learning disabilities. The report finds that fathers often respond differently to mothers when they receive a diagnosis that their child has a learning disability. At the time of diagnosis, and in the years ahead, support for their roles as carers is usually geared more towards mothers than fathers. It also provides a ‘Need2Know’ briefing for policy makers, commissioners and services.

The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities is now seeking additional funding to carry out research on some of the problem areas identified.

Rohan is currently researching the rights of the elderly and those with disabilities when accessing services on-line, and building on his AHRC award completed in 2007 when he looked at the rights of children with learning disabilities in gaining access to information communications technologies as educational aids in the classroom.

For more information about the project and a downloadable copy of the report, please visit the Foundation’s website:

1) Cardiff Law School is known internationally for its work across a wide range of research fields and for translating its research into information for policy-makers and practitioners. The most recent independent assessment of the quality of research in British universities ranked the School joint 7th in the UK. The School offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes and is home to the Centre for Professional Legal Studies, the leading provider of legal training in Wales. The Centre is one of only a handful of providers validated by the professional bodies (the Bar Standards Board and Solicitors Regulation Authority) to offer both the main vocational training courses for solicitors and barristers. Cardiff’s Legal Practice Course has consistently achieved the Solicitors Regulation Authority (formerly the Law Society) highest grade.

The library, one of the largest in the UK, has more than 100,000 volumes with subscriptions to over 200 current periodicals and law reports, supplemented by key legal databases such as Westlaw UK, Lexis Library and HeinOnline.

2) Rohan Kariyawasam is a Senior Lecturer in Commercial Law. Prior to joining Cardiff he was a lecturer at the University of Essex and a member of the Human Rights Centre and Director of their Program in Information Technology, Media and E-Commerce Law. He has worked as a consultant for both the Media & Communications Department at Clifford Chance, the media law department at Field Fisher Waterhouse, and as an external consultant to the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), Cable & Wireless, and the UK’s Office of Telecommunications (now OFCOM). He qualified as a solicitor with DentonWildeSapte.

Rohan has studied at Harvard Law School as a Berkman Fellow, the University of Kent at Canterbury, the University of Geneva, Switzerland, the College of Law in London, and the Centre for Commercial Law Studies at Queen Mary University of London. In 2001, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Harvard. He is the founding trustee to the Rahula Trust, which provides sponsorship to poor, academically gifted children in the developing world, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Georgina Thomson

Public Relations Officer

Cardiff Law School

Museum Avenue

Cardiff CF10 4EL

Tel: +44 (0) 2920 875465