Neglect fear over disabled children


Some disabled children are at risk of not being properly protected from neglect and abuse, inspectors warned today.

An Ofsted report has found that some youngsters with disabilities have needs that are not being met.

It suggests that social services, schools and health professionals must do more to ensure that these children do not slip through the net.

Disabled children are more dependent on their parents and carers than other youngsters for daily help, the report says.

This includes help to access health services and to make sure they are living in a safe environment.

While most disabled youngsters are living with parents and carers who look after them, in some cases inspectors found that children were so poorly cared for that it amounted to neglect.

For example, children were missing appointments or school, were not living in decent conditions or eating properly, the report says.

In some cases this was because the parent did not know what support they needed to get to help their child.

The study cites one case in which a child with sight and hearing impairments was facing problems because their parents were reluctant to help them use hearing aids and glasses. There were also concerns that the child was not eating properly and missing health appointments.

A teacher put together an action plan with help from other school staff, a health visitor and social worker to tackle the concerns and to work with the parents.

As a result the child started attending a pre-school regularly, using hearing aids and glasses and making good progress.

Ofsted says that local services need to do more monitor whether disabled children are getting the help they need, and make sure they are not slipping through the gap.

Those that are not getting the right support should be the subject of child protection plans.

The watchdog said that in one case, a parent said that having their child on a child protection plan, following concerns about neglect, helped her see the seriousness of the situation. A social worker helped her organise appointments, and how to rearrange them.

The mother said that one of the problems had been that she had not asked for help, and that she needed to accept this support.

The report, which is based on a survey of 12 local councils, did say that when a child did become subject to a child protection plan, action was taken to improve parenting and reduce risks to the youngster.

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.

"This report examines in depth, through the experiences of individual children, some of the reasons for that discrepancy.

"Inspectors saw some fantastic examples of good early multi-agency support for children and their families. But in some cases the focus on support for parents and their children seemed to obscure the child's need for 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."

Councillor David Simmonds, chairman of the Local Government Association's children and young people board, said: "The report highlights some of the excellent work taking place to support disabled children and their families early on. It is also encouraging that the study found that when child protection concerns did arise they were investigated promptly and steps were taken to ensure the child was safe.

"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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