8.16 Disabled Children
For additional guidance, please see Safeguarding Disabled Children: Practice Guidance(issued by the DCSF in July 2009).
The Children Act 1989 states that 'a child is disabled if he is blind, deaf or dumb or suffers from mental disorder of any kind or is substantially and permanently handicapped by illness, injury or congenital deformity or such other disability as may be prescribed'.
The Equality Act 2010 says that someone is disabled if they
Any child with a disability is by definition a 'Child in Need' under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989.
A disabled child, if abused, suffers the same consequences as any other. There are many reasons why disabled children may be more vulnerable to abuse and require additional vigilance.
Research indicates that the incidence of Emotional Abuse, Neglect and Sexual Abuse is much higher for disabled children. The level of risk may be raised by:
In addition to the universal indicators of abuse / neglect listed in Recognition of Abuse and Neglect, the following abusive behaviours must be considered:
The procedures in Section 4 of this manual, Response to Child Protection Referrals apply equally to disabled children, as well as the guidance contained in Information Sharing and Confidentiality.
As part of the response, the Local Authority has a duty to meet the needs of parents and carers of disabled children (under the Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000) and this should be included as part of an assessment of the child.
Where a child is unable to tell someone of her/his abuse, (s)he 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.
Agencies must consider how best to enable a disabled child to give credible evidence and to withstand the rigours of the court process (see also Use of Interpreters, Signers or Others with Communication Skills Procedure).