Government says abuse of disabled children ‘still being denied’


The abuse of disabled children is still being overlooked and denied by the professionals meant to protect them, according to a government minister.
Baroness Morgan, a junior children’s minister, spoke out as she launched new guidance aimed at helping professionals – including teachers, police officers and social and health workers – to protect disabled children from physical and sexual assaults and neglect.
The updated guidance was prepared by the Children’s Society for the Department for Children, Schools and Families, and advises local bodies in England how to safeguard and promote the welfare of disabled children.
The guidance, Safeguarding Disabled Children, says research shows disabled children face an increased risk of abuse or neglect but are “under-represented” in systems designed to safeguard children.
It adds: “Having a disability should not and must not mask or deter an appropriate enquiry where there are child protection concerns.”
The guidance says it is “essential” that there are enough “resources and time” for disabled children to take part in decisions about their own safety and welfare.
And there should be basic training and awareness-raising of disabled children’s “susceptibility” to abuse for all those working with them, including staff such as bus drivers and personal assistants.
The guidance also says that police investigating allegations should not make the mistake of assuming a disabled child will not be able to give credible evidence in court.
The authors of the guidance, Moira Murray, head of safeguarding for the Children’s Society, and Chris Osborne, a policy adviser for the charity, said the safeguarding of disabled children was “not always prioritised”.
They added: “The voices of disabled children must be heard if we are to prevent them from being abused or neglected.
“Disabled children should be seen first and foremost as children and their disability should not detract from their safeguarding needs.”
Baroness Morgan said: “The abuse of disabled children is too often overlooked or simply denied.”
She said that “attitudes and assumptions” about the rights of disabled children must be challenged.
The report quotes US research from 2000 that examined the records of more than 40,000 children and found disabled children were 3.4 times more likely to be abused or neglected than non-disabled children.
The study concluded that 31 per cent of disabled children had been abused, compared to nine per cent of non-disabled children.
10 July 2009