Children with SEND are
- 3.4 times more likely to be abused than non-disabled children
- 3.8 times more likely to be neglected
- 3.8 times more likely to be physically abused
- 3.1 times more likely to be sexually abused
- 3.9 times more likely to be emotionally abused.
The additional vulnerability of disabled children means they are more likely to suffer abuse and neglect, yet they are under-represented in the safeguarding system.
Some of the reasons why disabled children are more vulnerable to abuse and neglect are:
- Social isolation with fewer outside contacts than other children
- A need for practical assistance in daily living, including intimate care
- Physical dependence with consequent reduction in ability to be able to resist or avoid abuse
- Communication or learning difficulties preventing disclosure or making disclosure more difficult
- Carers and staff lacking the ability to communicate adequately
- A lack of continuity of care so behavioural changes may go unnoticed
- Lack of access to ‘keep safe’ strategies available to others
- Parents own needs and ways of coping may conflict with the needs of the child
- The child / parent is inhibited about complaining for fear of losing services
- The child being especially vulnerable to bullying, intimidation or abuse
- Some sex offenders may target disabled children in the belief that they are less likely to be detected
- Over-identification with the needs of parents that can lead to a professional reluctance to make judgments about concerning aspects of parenting
The Children Act 2004 states that safeguarding children is about:
- Protecting children from maltreatment, abuse and neglect
- Minimising risks of harm to children
- Preventing impairment of children’s health or development
- Addressing children’s needs at an early stage rather than when serious problems have developed
- Ensuring that every child has the opportunity to fulfil their potential
Promoting children’s welfare.
Safeguarding is everyone’s business.
‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ (March 2015) sets out a clear expectation that local agencies will work together and collaborate to identify children with additional needs and provide support as soon as a problem emerges. Providing early help is far more effective in promoting the welfare of children – and keeping them safe – than reacting later when any problems, for example neglect, may have become more entrenched.