Safeguarding disabled children in England How LSCBs are delivering against Ofsted requirements to protect disabled children

Teenage boy in wheelchair in a parkIn 2015, the National Working Group on Safeguarding Disabled Children (NWGSDC) carried out a survey of Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) to establish the effectiveness of local arrangements to protect disabled children. In particular, the survey gauged the progress LSCBs have made to implement recommendations from Ofsted's 2012 thematic inspection on protecting disabled children.

Responses to the survey were received from 36 out of the 146 LSCBs (25%).

Author: National Working Group on Safeguarding Disabled Children
Published: 2016

The survey responses uncovered many examples of good practice but, overall, findings indicate that LSCBs have not made sufficient progress against Ofsted's recommendations.

The report highlights 4 key issues:

A significant number of respondent LSCBs had not prioritised disabled children in the current or previous 2 years.

  • 25% of LSCBs hadn't prioritised disabled children within the current or previous 2 years or reported that they viewed protecting disabled children as 'part of' their ordinary safeguarding responsibilities for all children. This suggests a lack of shared understanding around the increased risk of abuse for disabled children and barriers to protecting them.
  • Only 22% of LSCBs had a subgroup dedicated to addressing issues around safeguarding disabled children.
  • LSCBs reported that it was a major challenge to prioritise the needs of disabled children due to budget cuts and competing areas of need.

Many respondent LSCBs are not systematically gathering and evaluating information on disabled children.

  • 89% of LSCBs indicated that they consider the effectiveness of safeguarding disabled children as part of quality assurance work.
  • However, only 55% had implemented the Ofsted recommendation to establish robust quality assurance case file audits and management information systems.
  • Only 42% had implemented the recommendation to report findings from these audits to LSCBs and local authorities' senior management.

Less than half of respondent LSCBs had implemented measures to ensure that thresholds for child protection were understood and applied.

  • 42% of LSCBs had implemented measures to ensure thresholds were understood for disabled children. 45% of LSCBs were considering implementing measures and others had not yet considered implementing them.
  • Some LSCBs had taken action to explore the extent and use of thresholds by reviewing and implementing threshold documents, delivering multi-agency training and auditing the effectiveness of these measures.

Survey responses indicate that overall there is a lack of strategic, preventative approaches to safeguarding disabled children.

  • Only 44% of LSCBs' management information systems included details of disabled children receiving early help assessments. This increased to 58% for Child in Need assessments.
  • Only 31% of respondent LSCBs indicated they had a specific anti-bullying policy relating to disabled children.
  • Only 53% of LSCB areas reported having personal safety programmes adapted to the needs of disabled children.

The report makes 5 recommendations:

  • The statutory guidance supporting the planned new statutory framework to protect and safeguard children should require local authorities, the police and the health service, as key local partners, to have arrangements in place that address their individual and collective responsibilities for ensuring the equal safeguarding and protection of disabled children.
  • LSCBs, future key local partners and other relevant agencies recognise disabled children as a key risk group and ensure they have mechanisms in place to address their specific safeguarding needs.
  • LSCBs, key local partners and other relevant agencies ensure that there is an effective range of provision and support in their area to safeguard and promote the welfare of disabled children.
  • The Department for Education (DfE), the Home Office and Ofsted set out how they will assure themselves that key local partners are recognising and meeting the safeguarding needs of disabled children.
  • The DfE, Home Office and Ofsted set out ways in which they will support and disseminate good practice, including specifically through the 'What Works Centre' and 'Knowledge and Skills for Social Work'.
Introduction 4
Why is a focus on safeguarding disabled children important? 5
Key issues and recommendations 7
Appreciations 15
About the National Working Group on Safeguarding Disabled Children 15
Appendix 1: Methodology and full findings 16
Appendix 2: Location of respondents 25
Appendix 3: Role of respondent 26
Appendix 4: Good practice examples identified from survey returns  
Appendix 5: Survey 29

Please cite as: National Working Group on Safeguarding Disabled Children. (2016) Safeguarding disabled children in England: how Local Safeguarding Children Boards are delivering against Ofsted requirements to protect disabled children: findings from a national survey. London: NSPCC.

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