The government’s guidance Safeguarding disabled children (HM Gov 2009) makes reference to research evidence suggesting that deaf and disabled children are more likely to be abused than non-disabled children.
Ofsted published Protecting disabled children: thematic inspection (Ofsted, 2012) in which they highlighted the increased risk of neglect that children with disabilities face and reminded professionals that:
‘Children with disabilities are more dependent than other children on their parents and carers for their day-to-day personal care; for helping them access services that they need to ensure that their health needs are met; and for ensuring that they are living in a safe environment.’
Independent research has also highlighted the challenges faced by children with disabilities and suggests that they may not be:
- offered the same protection as non-disabled children
- as ‘visible’ and are more likely to be isolated and less likely to receive mainstream facilities and services
- provided with appropriate sex education or information about their own bodies
- able to access people who can communicate with them effectively and have their ‘voice’ heard
- assisted sufficiently and therefore remain more dependent on others for their most important needs, such as feeding, taking medication or their intimate care
We have the right to be safe – protecting disabled children from abuse is a recent publication by the NSPCC and highlights the key issues facing disabled children and young people. The report contains important safeguarding information and messages from young people involved in their ‘Disabled Ambassadors’ group.
If you work with deaf or disabled children, it is important that you understand the additional vulnerabilities that place them at increased risk of abuse and undertake adequate training to ensure you fulfill your safeguarding responsibilities and keep disabled children safe. Further advice can be found in the inter-agency guidance.
If you have concerns about a child with a disability you should contact Children’s Social Care. Their Disabled Children’s Team (subject to assessment) provide support to children and young people with disabilities and their families. They help minimise the effects of their disability and seek to give them an opportunity to lead lives that are as normal as possible.