Investigation on disabled children and child protection in Scotland

Date: 7th April 2014
Category: Disability, Basic Health and Welfare

This report outlines research findings from an investigation into the relationship between professional practice, child protection and disability in Scotland.

The project was commissioned by the Scottish Government Children and Families Division to investigate the relationship between disabled children and child protection practice. Through interviews and focus groups the researchers spoke with 61 professionals working on issues of disabled children and child protection in Scotland.

Disabled children are more likely to be abused than their non-disabled peers, but there is evidence to suggest that the abuse of disabled children sometimes goes undetected. Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) does not mean treating every child the same.

Article 2 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) requires that "States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child's or his or her parent's or legal guardian's race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status."

Article 16 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) is "freedom from exploitation, violence and abuse" and requires State Parties to take "all appropriate legislative, administrative, social, educational and other measures to protect persons with disabilities, both within and outside the home, from all forms of exploitation, violence and abuse, including their gender-based aspects ... In order to prevent the occurrence of all forms of exploitation, violence and abuse, States Parties shall ensure that all facilities and programmes designed to serve persons with disabilities are effectively monitored by independent authorities ... States Parties shall put in place effective legislation and policies, including women- and child-focused legislation and policies, to ensure that instances of exploitation, violence and abuse against persons with disabilities are identified, investigated and, where appropriate, prosecuted."

The report notes a lack of confidence in working with disabled children, a lack of relevant training and variability in thresholds for action. Whilst there are positive aspects, the research shows that the child protection system is a cause for concern in relation to disabled children.

Main findings of the report include:

  • Assessments of child protection concerns should include and support the views of disabled children and young people where possible.
  • Local services need to provide training for disability teams, speech and language therapists and others with specific disability expertise on child protection and the child protection process (including joint interviewing).
  • The vulnerability of all disabled children, not just those with communication impairments, should be highlighted in practice guidance and supervision.

Access the full summary report here.