Ofsted: Disabled children slipping through child protection net

Ofsted is urging councils and LSCBs to improve child protection support for disabled children after research revealed the needs of many are being missed

Local authorities are failing to identify the child protection needs of disabled children, according to a report published by Ofsted.

The report, which looked at the effectiveness of child protection work for disabled children in 173 cases across 12 local authorities, found too many disabled children are at risk of slipping through the child protection net.

In some cases, inspectors found parents were neglecting their children, but the impact on the child had not been clearly recognised by children’s services. As a result, the focus on the child was lost.

Missed concerns

Serious concerns regarding the neglect of a young person with autism, for example, were only uncovered after an investigation into the alleged abuse of a sibling, even though the young person and the family were receiving support for the child’s disability.

Inspectors also found child protection concerns were not always addressed soon enough, while decisions and assessments did not routinely take a child’s history into account.

When children became subject to child protection plans, however, Ofsted found effective action was taken to reduce risks and, in most cases, children made good progress.

Good practice

Ofsted’s deputy chief inspector John Goldup said inspectors saw “fantastic” examples of good early multi-agency support, but found that too often the focus on support for families 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,” Goldup said.

But Sue Kent, professional officer for the British Association of Social Workers, warned proposed revisions to the safeguarding document Working Together would only deepen the problem.

‘Second class citizens’

“The terrible paradox of disabled children being more likely to be abused, while less likely to be subject to child protection, has been on the radar for many years,” Kent said.

“Yet current plans to cut child protection guidance by the removal of a specific chapter from Working Together, will no doubt lead to confusion and lack of a consistent service from agencies responsible for protecting disabled children,” she added.

“The government needs to guard against treating disabled children as second class citizens through inaction and deregulation.”
Cllr David Simmonds, chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, said: “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.

“Councils are committed to improving services for the most vulnerable children and the LGA and its partners are developing an £8 million programme that will encourage children’s services professionals to better share information on what works.”

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