Disabled children are 'falling through the net' when they need protection from abuse, according to a new report.
Ofsted said that after investigating the effectiveness of child protection work for disabled children in 12 local authorities it has concluded that they are more likely to be abused.
The study found that many children and their families receive good multi-agency early support but too many children had child protection needs which went unidentified.
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.
“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.”
Kathryn Stone chief executive of VOICE UK, a charity supporting people with learning disabilities and other vulnerable people, said the report “is not news to anyone who has been working with disabled children”.
“What is vital is that this 'stating the obvious’approach is used to highlight what positive steps can be taken and what important work has been done on this by a range of agencies including NSPCC and others to date,” said Stone.
“Disabled children are significantly more likely to be victims of abuse and less likely to be able to access justice for many complex reasons.”
The report found that child protection concerns were not always clearly recognised or dealt with early enough, and decisions and assessments did not consistently taking into account historical concerns.
Inspectors found cases in which poor care amounted to neglect. In these cases the impact of poor parenting on the child was not clearly seen, and the focus on the child was lost.
In one case of a young person with autism, the young person and the family were receiving support.
But it was not until an investigation was undertaken into allegations that a sibling had been abused that serious concerns regarding neglect were identified.
12 local authorities were surveyed looking at a sample of 173 covering multi-agency prevention and support cases; contacts and referrals to children’s social care; initial assessments; child protection enquiries or strategy meetings; children in need cases; and child protection cases.