6.2 Vulnerability of Disabled Children
Last updated 12/11/2018
6.2.1 Research consistently highlights that disabled children and young people are at increased risk of abuse and neglect. Professionals working with disabled children, carers and families must recognise and be alert to these vulnerabilities (Sidebotham et al 2016; Schooling 2017). Nationally, disabled children are over represented in serious case reviews yet underrepresented in child protection plans; this indicates that disabled children’s safeguarding needs are overlooked. In Sefton the local Safeguarding Children’s Board conducted an audit of children with disabilities and found that children in Sefton are safe. This offers some reassurance for current practice in Sefton; but no complacency.
Organisations must ensure that their staff are aware that disabled children and young people may be more vulnerable to being abused as a result of a number of factors. These include significant communication needs which impact upon their ability to be understood in relation to their health and social care needs and their wishes and feelings;
- Physical vulnerabilities
- Intimate care needs
- Need for physical handling
- Having multiple carers
- Being socially isolated
- The child/young person being perceived as being of lower status
- Some children may behave in ways that are self-harming
- An assumption that behaviour is an integral part of the child’s condition, rather than a response to abusive treatment or a negative reaction to medication
- Children with disabilities sometimes miss universal health and care services (including dental) because presentations and behaviours are often interpreted through the prism of their disability.
- Children with disabilities can be more vulnerable to criminal and sexual exploitation
- Children with disabilities can be more vulnerable to hate crime.
6.2.2 Vulnerability of Families where there is a child or children with disabilities
- Care needs and behaviours of a disabled child can challenge family members’ ability to cope
- The rate of family break up is higher than in families where there is no disability
- There is a risk of social isolation
- There are increased risks to parents and carers physical, mental and emotional health.
6.2.3 Organisations must ensure that arrangements are in place to minimise the likely impact of these vulnerabilities on disabled children and young people by:
- ensuring that the required policies and procedures are in place for dealing with difficult behaviour
- ensuring that staff are trained appropriately
- promoting children and young people’s rights and right to safeguarding
- ensuring that children and young people’s basic right to communication is always met.
- access to information about strategies for keeping safe that is usually available to other children and young people
- ensuring staff are aware of the warning signs of fabricated or induced illness (Safeguarding children in whom iIlness is fabricated or induced 2008) and follow the Sefton protocol.