How effective are we at safeguarding disabled children?

safeguarding disabled children

An important new study seeks to understand how we can better protect disabled children and young people from abuse. 

Research indicates disabled children are at heightened risk of violence and abuse, including child sexual exploitation. Studies show that disabled children are 3-4 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, there has been no systematic review of evidence covering the abuse and protection of disabled children and young people.

So 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 unique study, which is being funded by WWCSC – What Works for Children’s Social Care.

Assessing the Evidence

The review aims to assess the nature and quality of existing evidence. To date, nobody has collated this evidence to inform practice.

The study will support practitioners and decision-makers through identifying evidence on crucial areas. These include identifying abuse, involving disabled children and their families in child protection procedures, and also improving outcomes for this group.

Finally, researchers will recommend how the care system can create a quality and tailored effective response.

A Long Overdue Review

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. Support at all stages of the child protection system is at best inconsistent.  So through 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 that have a right to be protected.

We also 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. So we plan to explore this.

We hope this study will open up this debate. It will broaden our 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.

When you listen to the voices of disabled children, it becomes clear we need to do more. So we’re going to do more.

Research Team: Professor Anita Franklin, Jo Greenaway (University of Portsmouth); Dr Alex Toft (Nottingham Trent University); Dr Jane Hernon (University of East Anglia) and Sarah Goff (Ann Craft Trust, based at University of Nottingham).

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