The NSPCC has just published a report into safeguarding deaf and disabled children. ‘We have the right to be safe’ Protecting Disabled Children from abuse draws on research evidence; consultation with disabled children and young people and a wide range of safeguarding professionals.
Safeguarding disabled children means the actions we take to promote the welfare of children and protect them from harm.
Recognised in law
The report says that there has been an increasing recognition of the safeguarding needs of deaf and disabled children across the UK by legislation including;
• the UN Conventions of the Rights of the child (1989) and Persons with Disabilities (2009);
• Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and
• The Equality Act 2010.
These have helped improve practice across all services supporting deaf and disabled children but that much more work needs to be done.
What are additional risks to disabled children?
All deaf and disabled children are individuals but the report reminds us of the additional vulnerabilities that deaf and disabled children face which makes them at a greater risk of abuse. This can include:
• a lack of access to those in authority who can communicate with the child and understand that a child is disclosing abuse
• lack of education given to disabled children around sexual health and abuse
• an increased reliance on adult care giving for intimate and personal care needs.
What will help support disabled children?
The report highlights the importance of empowering disabled children through measures such as:
• peer support; where young people are trained to support each other
• safeguarding awareness through PHSE education in school
• developing services in consultation with disabled people.
At NDCS we already have a peer support project called Helping Hands. Working with a number of schools we are training deaf young people to support their deaf peers in order to promote self-esteem and reduce bullying.
The report says that more accessible information on safeguarding issues for disabled children will also help promote their welfare and protect them from harm. The development of NSPCC’s Deaf zone within Childline is an example where information on a number of topics is now available in BSL. It however accepts that there is still further work to make Childline fully accessible to deaf children and young people.
What disabled young people say
Finally perhaps the most powerful comments from the report are from deaf and disabled children and young people themselves who time after time express the importance of communication. As one young person stated;
“Talk to me not my carer!”
NDCS continues to work with NSPCC through the National Working Group on Safeguarding Disabled Children.
The full report can be downloaded here