Ofsted calls for better protection for disabled children

22 Aug 12
Children with disabilities who are abused are at risk of ‘slipping through the child protection net’ in England, Ofsted warned today.

By Richard Johnstone | 22 August 2012

Children with disabilities who are abused are at risk of ‘slipping through the child protection net’ in England, Ofsted warned today.

The watchdog found that, although many children received good multi-agency support, there were still ‘too many’ unidentified protection needs.

Its report, Protecting disabled children: thematic inspection, looked at the effectiveness of child protection work for disabled children in 12 local authorities in England.

A total of 173 cases were examined to trace how well the support and protection regime operated, from initial assessments through to child protection proceedings.

Ofsted found that local authorities and Local Safeguarding Children Boards had access to a large amount of data on disabled children. However, most had not made good use of this in evaluating services. This made it very difficult for local authorities to know if there were unidentified risks for disabled children within their communities.

Also, child protection concerns were not always recognised or dealt with early enough and assessments sometimes did not take account of historical problems.

Both local authorities and the boards should set thresholds for child protection that were well understood and rigorously applied ‘at every stage’, the report concluded. Robust systems should also be put in place to better assess professionals’ work with disabled children.

Ofsted deputy chief inspector John Goldup said: ‘Research suggests that disabled children, sadly, are more likely to be abused than children without disabilities. Yet they are less likely than other children to be subject to child protection.

‘The report highlights the need for greater awareness among all agencies of the potential child protection needs of disabled children, for better and more coordinated assessments, and for more effective monitoring by Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards.

‘We cannot accept a lower standard of care and protection for disabled children than we expect for all our children.’  

Responding to the report, the Local Government Association agreed there were improvements to be made, saying councils were ‘committed to continually improving services for the most vulnerable children’.

David Simmonds, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, added: ‘Of course, no child should remain in an unsafe environment. However, in cases where the situation is not clear cut, social workers face incredibly tough decisions. Clearly there is more work to be done to make sure there is common understanding and effective communication between local partners so that all children are kept safe from harm.’


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