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Statistics on disabled children

A compilation of statistics on disabled children from research and official publications

May 2014

  • There are 800,000 disabled children in the UK (6% of all children).
  • Disabled children are over three times more likely to be abused or neglected than non-disabled children.

Introduction
Official statistics
Research statistics
Further reading


Introduction

There are significant gaps in our knowledge of disabled children and child protection. We do not know how many disabled children are known to child protection services or how many disabled children experience abuse. Much of the data that is available relates to countries outside the UK.

This page summarises available statistics on disabled children collated from government, official and research publications.


Official statistics

Population of disabled children

  • There are approximately 800,000 disabled children in the UK (6% of all children).

Source: Department for Work and Pensions (2013) Family resources survey: United Kingdom 2011/12 (PDF). London: Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). p 61

The DWP does not define everyone under the age of 18 as a child. The DWP defines a child as an individual aged under 16, or aged from 16 to 19 years old and: not married nor in a Civil Partnership nor living with a partner; and living with parents/a responsible adult; and in full-time non-advanced education or in unwaged government training.

Children in need

  • 14% (52,300) of children in need in England at 31 March 2013 had a recorded disability.
  • 22% (4,450) of children in need in Wales at 31 March 2013 had a recorded disability.

The definition of "in need" (as defined by section 17 of the Children Act 1989) includes the need for any service, not only those in need of protection from abuse.

Sources: Department for Education (2013) Table B2 in Main tables: characteristics of children in need in England, 2012-13 (Excel). London: Department for Education.

Knowledge and Analytical Services, Welsh Government (2014) Children in need by local authority and disability. Cardiff: Welsh Government.

Great Britain, laws and statutes (1989) Children Act 1989: chapter 41. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office (HMSO). 

Children known to be at risk of abuse

Currently Scotland and Wales are the UK nations that routinely publish statisitcs on the number of disabled children on the child protection register.

  • In cases where the information was recorded, 7% (140) of children on the child protection register in Scotland had additional support needs of some kind at 31 July 2013.
  • 5% (125) of children who were on the child protection register, but not looked after, in Wales had a recorded disability at 31 March 2013.

Sources: Scottish Government (2014) Table 4.2 in Children's social work statistics 2012-13: additional tables. (Excel) Edinburgh: Scottish Government.

Knowledge and Analytical Services, Welsh Government (2014) Children in need by local authority and disability. Cardiff: Welsh Government.

Looked after children

England and Wales collect data on the category of need of looked after children, including the child's disability or illness.

  • 3% (2,260) of looked after children in England  were looked after due to their disability at 31 March 2013.
  • 6% (325) of looked after children in Wales were looked after due to their disability or illness at 31 March 2013.

These figures include disabled children in residential schools.

Sources: Glenndenning, J. (2013) Children Looked After by Local Authorities in England (including adoption and care leavers) - year ending 31 March 2013 (PDF). London: Department for Education (DfE).

Knowledge and Analytical Services, Welsh Government (2014) Children in need by local authority and category of need. Cardiff: Welsh Government.

Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales collect data on whether looked after children have a disability, regardless of whether it is the category of need under which they are looked after.

  • 14% (261) of children in Northern Ireland who had been looked after for at least 12 months at 30 September 2012 had a disability of some kind.
  • In cases where the information was recorded, 13% (1,754) of looked after children in Scotland had additional support needs of some kind at 31 July 2013.
  • 13% (770) of looked after children in Wales had a disability of some kind at 31 March 2013.

Sources: Department of Health, Social Services & Public Safety (2013) Table 15a in Children in care in Northern Ireland 2011/12 (Excel). Belfast: DHSSPSNI.

Scottish Government (2014) Table 2.4 in Children's social work statistics 2011-12: additional tables (Excel). Edinburgh: Scottish Government.

Knowledge and Analytical Services, Welsh Government (2014) Children in need at 31 March by looked after status, category of need and disability, including unborn children. Cardiff: Welsh Government.

Case reviews

  • In England 12% of serious case reviews were identified as concerning disabled children, 21 out of a total of the 178 reviews originally notified in 2009-11.

Source: Brandon, M et al. (2012) New learning from serious case reviews: a two year report for 2009-2011 (PDF). London: Department for Education (DFE).


Research statistics

Disabled children and risk of abuse



Disabled children are over three times more likely to be abused or neglected than non-disabled children.

  • A review of data from research studies into prevalence and risk of violence against disabled children found pooled prevalence estimates of 26.7% for combined violence measures, 20.4% for physical violence and 13.7% for sexual violence.
  • Odds ratios for pooled risk estimates were 3.68 for combined violence measures, 3.56 for physical violence and 2.88 for sexual violence confirming that disabled children are three to four times more likely to be victims of violence than are their non-disabled peers.

Source: Jones, L. et al (2012) Prevalence and risk of violence against children with disabilities: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. In Lancet 380 (9845), 12 July 2012: 899-907

  • 31 per cent of disabled children had been abused compared with 9 per cent among the non-disabled child population.
  • Disabled children were 3.4 times more likely to be abused or neglected than non-disabled children. They were:
    • 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.

Source: Sullivan, P. M. and Knutson, J. F. (2000) Maltreatment and disabilities: a population-based epidemiological study in Child Abuse and Neglect 24(10), October 2000: 1257-1273.  Based on the records of over 40,000 children in an American city.

Bullying

  • Nearly 8 out of 10 young people with a learning disability have experienced bullying.

Source: Mencap (2007) Bullying wrecks lives: the experiences of children and young people with a learning disability (PDF). London: Mencap. Based on a survey of 500 children and young people aged eight to 19 years in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.


Further reading

How to find, understand and use statistics about child abuse
NSPCC, 2011. A brief introduction to child abuse statistics.

Comparing child abuse statistics over time and between countries
Explains the issues around looking for trends in statistics over time, within the UK and internationally.


Contact the NSPCC's information service for more information on children with disabilities or any other child protection topic


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