abuseLocal Safeguarding Children's Boards (LSCBs) have an inconsistent approach to safeguarding disabled children at Board level across England and overall have not made sufficient progress against Ofsted’s 2012 recommendations for improvement, a survey has found.

The survey was carried out by the National Working Group on Safeguarding Disabled Children (NWGSDC) in consultation with the Association of Independent LSCB Chairs. Responses were received from 36 of the 146 LSCBs (25%).

While the survey did find examples of innovative practice, some serious issues were highlighted. For instance, a significant number of respondent LSCBs had not prioritised disabled children in the current or previous 2 years and many are not systematically gathering and evaluating information on disabled children. 

In addition, less than half of respondent LSCBs had implemented measures to ensure that thresholds for child protection were understood and applied and survey responses indicate that overall there is a lack of strategic, preventative approaches to safeguarding disabled children.

Research has found that disabled children are 3-4 times more likely to be abused and neglected than non-disabled children and are more likely to experience multiple types and occurrences of abuse.

The NWGSDC works to ensure the protection of disabled children and young people. It is co-chaired by the NSPCC and the Ann Craft Trust, and comprises representatives from Council for Disabled Children, Action for Children, Contact a Family, NHS England, Imagine in Action, National Deaf CAMHS and NDCS.

Sarah Goff from the Ann Craft Trust said: “We know how vulnerable disabled children are to abuse, yet there are many barriers to their protection. It is essential that agencies collaborate in identifying and addressing these barriers and that arrangements are put in place to ensure the safeguarding of disabled children.” 

The report calls for local authorities, the police and the health service, as future key local partners to have arrangements in place that ensure the equal safeguarding and protection of disabled children and for future statutory guidance to identify measures that should be taken. It calls for disabled children to be recognised as a key risk group and to ensure that there is an effective range of provision and support in the local area in order to safeguard them. Finally, the report calls on the Department for Education, Home Office and Ofsted to ensure that key local partners are recognising and meeting the safeguarding and protection needs of disabled children and are effectively implementing statutory guidance.  

David Miller from the NSPCC added: “Despite improvements, many of the fundamental longstanding challenges remain and more needs to be understood about why commitments to the equal protection of disabled children are so often not reflected in strategic change. It is vital that LSCBs and, in the future, local authorities, the police and the health service as key local partners take the lead in driving through arrangements to protect disabled children from abuse.”