LSCBLocal Safeguarding Children Board Northamptonshire

Protecting Disabled Children From Abuse

The NSPCC has published a new report about deaf and disabled children's experiences of the child protection system.

The report  'Deaf and Disabled Children Talking About Child Protection' highlights findings from in-depth interviews with 10 deaf and disabled people who had been abused during childhood. It looks at how they sought help, the barriers they faced and how professionals and organisations recognised and responded to the abuse.

It includes recommendations for policy makers and commissioners, agencies working with deaf and disabled children, and parents and carers.

If you're deaf you can't phone up childline... Where I was staying there were no computers, no mobile phones, no text phones, nothing. 

Key findings

Deaf and disabled children who are abused face additional barriers in disclosing abuse and receiving the protection they need:

  • Signs of distress were often mistakenly assumed to be related to the child’s impairment rather than recognised as an indication of abuse.
  • There was a lack of awareness or agreement about what constitutes the abuse of deaf and disabled children. This led to ambiguity in the minds of both children and adults regarding the most appropriate course of action.
  • Deaf and disabled children were often invisible. In some cases services were absent from their lives. In others, provision was inadequate or inappropriate.
  • Particular concerns were raised in relation to the quality of some foster care placements and the lack of professional interpreting services and communication support.
  • Supportive relationships and access to professional interpreters were key enablers of protection for deaf and disabled children.

Six key issues have emerged: 

  • Disclosure is a complex process for deaf and disabled children. Barriers to disclosure must be tackled to ensure that abuse of deaf and disabled children is identified and addressed. Greater clarity and consensus is needed about what constitutes abuse of deaf and disabled children and expectations regarding their fair treatment must be raised.
  • There is a need for adults to work more proactively to identify potential signs of abuse rather than rely on children’s disclosures.
  • There was an absence of formal support services in some participants' childhoods while the provision that was available was often inadequate and/or inappropriate.
  • Social isolation was a dominant feature of their childhoods. Participants described a lack of friends and limited contact within their wider family and community.
  • Much greater understanding is needed of the consequences of child abuse across all aspects of deaf and disabled people’s lives. We need to know more about the self-care and survivorship skills adopted by people and the long-term interventions necessary to respond to child abuse appropriately.
  • The prevention of abuse must be a priority.

The report contains real insight into the experiences of deaf and disabled children with different agencies:

I was very dependent on my [abusive] mother. There was no other family near us... You know GP, audiology... my mother was always there. I couldn't say or do anything that might make her angry, you know.

It was good to see a policeman who could sign. I felt comfortable straight away... When the qualified interpreter came, I felt more comfortable, it meant that I was able to give information with no communication problems...correct information was conveyed to the police.

Last updated: 09 April 2015

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