Safeguarding Children with Disabilities

The LSCB’s Monitoring & Evaluation Subcommittee commissioned a Multi-Agency Audit to look at whether a robust and timely service is provided to disabled children who are in need of protection in Brighton & Hove, and whether we are making a difference. Agencies from accross the city took part in this audit, and you can read more about the findings and recommendations here: Children with Disabilities Audit: Staff Briefing

Research has found that disabled children are three to four times more likely to be abused and neglected than non-disabled children.  The level of risk may be raised by:

  • A need for practical assistance in daily living, including intimate care from what may be a number of carers;
  • Carers and staff lacking the ability to communicate effectively with a child;
  • A lack of continuity in care leading to an increased risk that behavioural changes may go unnoticed. Changes in behaviour can also be inappropriately attributed to a child’s disability rather than an indicator of abuse;
  • Carers may work with the disabled child in isolation;
  • Physical dependency with consequent reduction in ability to be able to stop abuse;
  • An increased likelihood that a child is socially isolated;
  • Lack of access to ‘keep safe’ strategies available to others;
  • Communication or learning difficulties preventing disclosure;
  • Parents’/carers’ own needs and ways of coping may conflict with the needs of the child;
  • Parents/carers’ needs dominating professional intervention leading to the needs of a disabled child becoming overlooked;
  • Fear of complaining in case services are withdrawn;
  • Some sex offenders may target disabled children in the belief that they are less likely to be detected.

Where a child is unable to tell someone of her/his abuse, they may convey anxiety or distress in some other way, e.g. behaviour or symptoms and carers and staff must be alert to this.

Each child should be assessed carefully and supported where relevant to participate in the child protection and criminal justice system. It should never be assumed that a disabled child cannot communicate and appropriate communication methods and professionals with the appropriate skills must always be considered. In addition to the universal indicators of abuse / neglect the following abusive behaviours must be considered:

  • Force feeding;
  • Unjustified or excessive physical restraint;
  • Rough handling;
  • Extreme behaviour modification including the deprivation liquid, medication, food or clothing;
  • Misuse of medication, sedation, heavy tranquillisation;
  • Invasive procedures against the child’s will;
  • Deliberate failure to follow medically recommended regimes;
  • Misapplication of programmes or regimes;
  • Ill fitting equipment e.g. callipers, sleep board which may cause injury or pain, inappropriate splinting;
  • Removing communication aids.

LSCB Multi Agency Training:  

The LSCB offers a day long course on Safeguarding Children with Disabilities and the next session takes place on Thursday 22 March 2018. This training will help you  identify the factors that make children with disabilities more vulnerable to harm; describe the attitudes and assumptions that can exist in relation to children with disabilities suffering from abuse and neglect; improve your understanding of multi-agency roles in safeguarding children with disabilities; and gain practice skills in communicating with children with disabilities when investigating abuse or neglect. Book through the Learning Gateway here


Further Reading & Useful Links

If you are concerned about a child in Brighton & Hove contact the

Front Door for Families on 01273 290400