How effective are we at safeguarding disabled children?
An important new study which seeks to understand how to can better protect disabled children and young people from abuse starts this week.
Research indicates disabled children are at heightened risk of violence and abuse including child sexual exploitation. Studies show that disabled children are three to four times more likely to experience violence and abuse than those without disabilities, yet they are relatively invisible within generic child protection research.
These factors make effective safeguarding of disabled children and young people an urgent sector priority. To date, no systematic review of evidence covering the abuse and protection of disabled children and young people has been carried out.
Researchers from the Universities of Portsmouth, East Anglia, Nottingham Trent and the Ann Craft Trust based at University of Nottingham, will work in partnership on this study, which is being funded by WWCSC – What Works for Children’s Social Care.
The aim of the review is to assess the nature and quality of existing evidence, which to date has not been collated to inform practice. Critically the study will support practitioners and decision-makers through identifying evidence on crucial areas such as identification of abuse, involving disabled children and their families in child protection procedures, and improving outcomes for this group. Lastly researchers will recommend how the care system can create a quality and tailored effective response.
Lead researcher, Professor Anita Franklin, Professor of Childhood Studies, University of Portsmouth says: “This review is the first of its kind and is long overdue. It is critical that we better understand the evidence concerning disabled children’s increased risk of abuse and neglect. Until now evidence suggests that despite their increased risk of experiencing abuse disabled children’s access to safeguarding is often problematic and support at all stages of the child protection system is at best inconsistent. By working in partnership with such a highly experienced team I am convinced we can make a difference to the outcomes of disabled children and young people who have a right to be protected. We want to support practitioners with an evidence base on which to build quality care”.
Sarah Goff, Safeguarding Children and Young People Manager at the Ann Craft Trust says: “Practitioners, front line managers, and strategic senior managers who design and deliver services need an evidence base that straddles child protection and disability. We plan to explore this. We hope this study will open up this debate and contribute towards growing understanding of what we need to do both in mainstream and specialist services to bring together the skills of helping families, listening to children and getting it right in child protection. Listening to the voices of disabled children it is clear we need to do more”.
Dr. Jane Hernon, Lecturer in Social Work at the University of East Anglia says: “Disabled children face a disproportionately higher risk of abuse, including from emerging threats of child sexual exploitation and criminal exploitation associated with county lines. This makes this review, aimed at establishing an evidence base to help guide practitioners to more effectively identify, listen to and safeguard disabled children at risk of abuse, especially urgent and timely”.