‘We have the right to be safe’ Protecting disabled children from abuse
We know that disabled children are at an increased risk of being abused compared with their non-disabled peers. They are also less likely to receive the protection and support they need when they have been abused.
This report identifies key issues about safeguarding disabled children. It looks at why disabled children are particularly vulnerable and considers what we know from research and reviews of service delivery. It examines the policy context and current state of safeguarding services in the UK. Finally it sets out what is needed to improve the protection of disabled children.
Author: David Miller and Jon Brown
- We have the right to be safe PDF / 8 MB
- We have the right to be safe – executive summary PDF / 5 MB
- Mae gennym hawl i fod yn ddiogel: amddiffyn plant anabl rhag camdriniaeth – crynodeb gweithredol PDF / 5 MB
- We have the right to be safe – easy-read version PDF / 9 MB
- Mae gennym hawl i fod yn ddiogel: diogelu plant a phobl ifanc anabl rhag camdriniaeth – easy read version PDF / 9 MB
- We have the right to be safe – child-friendly version PDF / 6 MB
- Mae gennym hawl i fod yn ddiogel: diogelu plant a phobl ifanc anabl rhag camdriniaeth – child friendly version PDF / 6 MB
What we know about what puts disabled children at risk
Factors that increase risk and lessen protection for disabled children include:
- attitudes and assumptions – e.g. a reluctance to believe disabled children are abused; minimising the impact of abuse; and attributing indicators of abuse to the child's impairment
- barriers to the disabled child and their family accessing support services
- issues related to a child's specific impairment – e.g. dependency on a number of carers for personal or intimate care; impaired capacity to resist/avoid abuse, difficulties in communicating; and an inability to understand what is happening or to seek help
- limited opportunities for disabled children to seek help from someone else
- a lack of professional skills, expertise and confidence in identifying child protection concerns and the lack of an effective child protection response.
What we know about disabled children's experiences of abuse
Research suggests that:
- disabled children are at a greater risk of physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect than non-disabled children
- disabled children at greatest risk of abuse are those with behaviour/conduct disorders. Other high-risk groups include children with learning difficulties/disabilities, children with speech and language difficulties, children with health-related conditions and deaf children.
- disabled children in residential care face particular risks
- bullying is a feature in the lives of many disabled children.
What might help improve the protection of disabled children
Research has identified a number of activities that can help to protect disabled children. These include:
- personal safety skills activities, including sex and relationships education, that raise disabled children's awareness of abuse and ability to seek help
- peer support, which can have a beneficial effect on reducing bullying and enabling children to explore issues and make decisions.
- creative therapies, which can provide children with opportunities to express themselves through indirect and non-verbal means.
How else we can improve protection for disabled children
We need to share and build on existing knowledge and good practice and work together towards ensuring equal protection for disabled children. There is a need:
- to develop a wider and deeper evidence base to help us better understand the vulnerability of disabled children to abuse and how they can be protected.
- to raise awareness about the abuse of disabled children and challenge attitudes and assumptions that act as barriers to protection
- to promote safe and accessible services
- to raise disabled children's awareness of abuse and ability to seek help including access to personal safety skills training
- for agencies to build on good practice and measures already in place that help ensure the effective delivery of child protection and criminal justice services for disabled children.
|Messages from NSPCC disabled ambassadors||6|
|Rationale for the focus on disabled children||12|
|Influencing factors on risk and protection||14|
|The current state of knowledge||21|
|The policy context||30|
|The current state of services||40|
|The way forward||48|
Please cite main report as: Miller, D. and Brown, J. (2014) 'We have the right to be safe': protecting disabled children from abuse. [London]: NSPCC.
Safeguarding disabled children in England
Deaf and disabled children talking about child protection
Telling about abuse
Telling about bullying
Safeguarding deaf and disabled children in sport
Services for children, families and professionals
Safeguarding deaf and disabled children
Child abuse and neglect
Keeping children safe
Our Current Awareness Service for Practice, Policy And Research delivers free weekly email alerts to keep you up-to-date with all the latest safeguarding and child protection news.
Follow us on Twitter and keep up-to-date with all the latest news in child protection.
We hold the UK's largest collection of child protection resources and the only UK database specialising in published material on child protection, child abuse and child neglect.
New in the Library
A free weekly email listing all of the new child protection publications added to our library collection.
Helping you keep children safe
Read our guide for professionals on what we do and the ways we can work with you to protect children and prevent abuse and neglect.
Impact and evidence hub
Find out how we evaluate and research the impact we’re making in protecting children, get tips and tools for researchers and access resources.
Get expert training and consultancy
Sharing knowledge to keep children safe
Read our guide to the NSPCC Knowledge and Information Service to find out how we can help you with child protection queries, support your research, and help you learn and develop.