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Capacity to Parent: Reasonable Adjustments - Dr Mark Burgin

24/09/19. Dr Mark Burgin BM BCh (oxon) MRCGP explains how parents can overcome their disabilities if the right reasonable adjustments are offered to the parent.

No parent can cope with all the demands that children can throw at them and if any parent was measured by their worst day they would be found wanting.

It is essential to recognise the difference between a bad period which can be improved by reasonable adjustments and something more serious.

When assessing a parent’s functional restrictions there are some aspects that need special attention as they can appear insurmountable unless the expert is aware of the options.


Some parents appear to have insufficient motivation to provide good quality care for their children due to them focusing on their own problems.

These parents can helped to address their children’s needs by reasonable adjustments such as mental health advice or financial support.

More difficult is the parents who appear to passively expect others to do their job where issues such as learned helplessness and a history of abuse are common.

Personal relationships

Intensity of relationships can lead to problems in their children’s behaviour, but the underlying relationship is generally positive for the child.

Cold relationships particularly when associated with abuse cause the child to also have poor quality relationships and long-term difficulties with attachment.

It is easy to mistake good social skills with warm personal relationships leading to an assessment failing to pick up the reasons why a child is becoming damaged.

Social Skills

Parents who have powerful social skills can hide significant problems in their families either by using charm or by developing a hostile-dependent relationship with the assessor.

Assessing social and personal skills separately can avoid these mistakes to recognise what the social skills are hiding and the real effects on the child.

This interrelation of personal and social means it may be necessary to adjust the social approach to deal with personal problems and vice versa.


Assessment of the family’s problems is the first step to offering reasonable adjustments so using disability analysis to identify areas of functional restriction is key.

For each area the steps required to help the parent improve their skills are relatively simple unless a serious underlying problem is identified.

Few families require an intensive treatment plan run by a multidisciplinary team with high resources as most will respond to targeted adjustments.

Doctor Mark Burgin, BM BCh (oxon) MRCGP is on the General Practitioner Specialist Register.

Dr. Burgin can be contacted This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 0845 331 3304 website

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