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Neglect of Disabled Children

For those of you who use the GCP – did you know that there is a version specifically tailored to use when working with children with disabilities? Find out more on our GCP pages

Definiton of disabled

The Children Act 1989 states that a child is disabled if s/he is ‘blind, deaf or dumb or suffers from mental disorder of any kind or is substantially and permanently handicapped by illness, injury or congenital deformity or other such disability as may be prescribed.’

Risk of neglect

Disabled children are recognised as one of the most vulnerable groups in terms of safguarding their wellbeing because they trust and rely on their care-givers to be sensitive to their personal care needs, their health, their emotional well-being and their safety. Disabled children may be especially vulnerable due to a number of reasons; for example, they may:

  • have fewer outside contacts than other children
  • receive initimate care, possibly from a number of carers, which may both increase the risk of abusive behaviour and make it more difficult to set and maintain physical boundaries
  • have an impaired capacity to resist or avoid abuse
  • have communication difficulties which may make it difficult to tell others what is happening
  • be inhibited about complaining through fear of losing services
  • be especially vulnerable to bullying and intimidation
  • be more vulnerable to abuse by peers

Types of neglect

Neglect of disabled children is not always easy to identify. They may experience the same types of neglect as non-disabled children (physical, emotional and sexual abuse) but there are also certain types of harm that may be experienced soley by disabled children. These include:

  • failure to meet the communication needs of the child
  • equipment is issued to a child but seems to be unavailble for the child’s use, or alternative equipment that is ill-fitting or inapproriate for the child’s use causing pain or injury
  • a parent or carer refuses to follow professional advice which is considered to be in the childs best interests, for example refusing to take up services or treatment, pursuing invasive procedures which are unnecessary or carried out against the child’s will or carried out by people without the right skills, or refusing to support school attendance
  •  physical interventions are not carried out in accordance with good practice guidelines and protocols
  • inappropriate behaviour modification
  • misuse of medication
  • being denied access to education, play and leisure opportunities

It is important to remember that evidence of good quality care does not always mean that there are no safeguarding issues.

Supporting Documents