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5.13 Abuse of Disabled Children


This chapter should be read in conjunction with Safeguarding Disabled Children, Practice Guidance (July 2009)

5.11.1 Research suggests that disabled children are at increased risk of abuse, and that the presence of multiple disabilities appears to increase the risk of both abuse and neglect (see standards 5, 7 and 8 of the National Service Framework for Children, Young People and Maternity Services, 2004 and The Second Joint Chief Inspectors' Report on Arrangements to Safeguard Children, July 2005).

Some disabled children may:

  • Have fewer outside contacts than other children;
  • Receive intimate personal care, sometimes from a number of carers, so increasing the risk of exposure to abusive behaviour;
  • Have an impaired capacity to resist or avoid abuse;
  • Have communication difficulties that make it harder to tell others what is happening;
  • Be inhibited about complaining because of a fear of losing services;
  • Be more vulnerable to bullying, intimidation and abuse by both adults and peers;
  • Display signs ands symptoms of abuse that are attributed to existing medical conditions.

Safeguards for disabled children are essentially the same as for non-disabled children. These should include:

  • Making it common practice to help disabled children make their wishes and feelings known;
  • Ensuring disabled children receive appropriate personal, health and social education (including sex and relationships education);
  • Ensuring disabled children have appropriate means of raising their concerns with a range of adults;
  • Ensuring an explicit commitment to, and understanding of, disabled children's safety and welfare among providers of services used by disabled children;
  • Having close contact with families, and a culture of openness on the part of service;
  • Providing guidelines and training for staff on all aspects of good practice (including intimate care, anti-bullying strategies and sexuality);
  • Professional understanding that disabled children can be subjected to abuse including by family members.
5.11.4 Where there are concerns about the welfare of a disabled child, these should be acted on in exactly the same way as with a non-disabled child; the same thresholds for action must apply. For further information please see Knowsley MASH (Multi-Agency Referral Form). This will either be to the Social Work Teams, or the allocated social worker, if the child's case is already open. Out of hours the Emergency Duty Team should be contacted.
5.11.5 Special attention should be paid to disabled children's communication needs and every effort made to find out their wishes and feelings. Children's Social Care should know how to contact suitable interpreters or facilitators.
5.11.6 Assumptions should not be made about the inability of a disabled child to give credible evidence, or participate in, the court process. In every case the best interests of that disabled child should be considered (see Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings - Guidance on Interviewing Victims and Witnesses, the use of Special Measures and the Provision of Pre-trial Therapy).