Safeguarding Disabled Children

Disabled children are recognised as the most vulnerable group in respect of safeguarding their wellbeing. They may have physical, sensory and learning disabilities and difficulties. Severely disabled children often rely on parents and carers to meet most or all of their needs. They may have limited mobility and may find it hard to make their feelings and wishes known because of communication or language difficulties. Children with complex needs may receive services in a range of settings from a number of care providers leaving them vulnerable to ill or cruel treatment, to neglect and abuse. If they have been harmed or ill-treated they may find it difficult to know how they can express their own concerns about their welfare and they may not even know that the care they are receiving is not safe or appropriate. Disabled children trust their care-givers and rely on them to be sensitive to their personal care needs ,their health, their emotional well-being and their safety.

The documents uploaded into this section are the most recent advice, guidance and findings about the safety of disabled children and how to safeguard their interests.

The "Safeguarding Disabled Children Practice Guidance" document from the DCSF (now the Department for Education) published in 2009 is the most comprehensive guide to working with disabled young people who may have been abused. It should be read alongside the revised Working Together from 2013 as a companion volume and includes advice about recognition, identification and interventions with disabled children who may have been abused or harmed.

The "Short Breaks - Statutory Guidance on how to safeguard and promote the welfare of disabled children using short breaks" from 2010 produced by the DCSF is the primary document for the safeguarding of disabled children who are cared for in settings and clarifies children’s legal status when they are staying away from their family receiving a break especially those who may have achieved Looked After status because of the complexity of their needs or the number of nights they are in an overnight setting.  Please also see Short Breaks: Statutory guidance on how to safeguard and promote the welfare of disabled children using short breaks Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

 The "Ofsted Protecting Disabled Children: Tthematic Inspection" was published in August 2012. It reported on Ofsted’s observations following a number of themed inspections looking at services for disabled children from Early Help to Child Protection. Their findings and recommendations are aimed at Local Safeguarding Boards and Local Authorities to measure their own performance against the findings and recommendations and to make changes where necessary.

The report, ‘Unprotected, Overprotected: meeting the needs of young people with learning disabilities who experience, or are at risk of sexual exploitation', was commissioned by Comic Relief, and undertaken by Barnardo’s, The Children’s Society, BILD, Paradigm Research and Coventry University.  The key findings of this report were:

  • Young people with learning disabilities are vulnerable to CSE due to factors that include overprotection, social isolation and society refusing to view them as sexual beings 
  • Lack of awareness of the sexual exploitation of young people with learning disabilities among professionals also contributes to their vulnerability
  • There are gaps in national policy and a lack of implementation of current guidance
  • Young people with learning disabilities are often not specifically considered in local multi-agency arrangements for CSE, which has implications for whether those experiencing or at risk of CSE are identified or receive support
  • Young people with learning disabilities can face a number of challenges to disclosing CSE, including the negative responses of professionals

Further information can be obtained from the BILD website at

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