Safeguarding Disabled Children

Disabled children may be particularly vulnerable to abuse and neglect  for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Receiving intimate personal care possibly from a number of carers which may increase their exposure to abusive behaviour and make it more difficult to set and maintain physical boundaries;
  • Having an impaired capacity to resist or avoid abuse;
  • Being more vulnerable to abuse by their peers and especially vulnerable to bullying;
  • Being inhibited about complaining due to fear of losing services. 

In addition to increased risk factors, disabled children may have communication difficulties which make it difficult to tell others what is happening to them.  Adults, including professionals assessing their needs and caring for them may concentrate on the child’s special needs and overlook signs and symptoms which may suggest that the child is being maltreated.  

Often, signs indicating maltreatment may be attributed to the disability.

A professional who has a concern for a disabled child must consider:

  • The child’s communication needs and how she/he will communicate effectively with the child;
  • What information in relation to the child’s disability and special needs the professional requires in order to assess risk of abuse;
  • What resources the professional requires in order to undertake an informed assessment;
  • Any specialist advice the professional needs.

Where there is a concern for a disabled child who is already subject to a care plan, for example in receipt of short break care, those professionals assessing the concern and those who are responsible for coordinating and delivering the plan must work closely together to ensure that the child’s needs are met in a holistic way.

Where child protection issues are considered in regard to a child with disabilities, there must be involvement by key professionals who know the child well, including those who have a comprehensive understanding of the child’s disability, method of communication, and any associated medical condition.

York's Local Offer for children with special educational needs and disability.
Childnet International - Practical advice and teaching activities to help educators explore online safety with young people with autism spectrum disorders in Key Stage 3 and 4. Download the STAR Toolkit
Guide for young people on how toresolve special education needs and disability (SEND) disagreements from DfE 



CYSCP provides online and face to face training for practitioners.

Useful Links

NSPCC Resources  Government Guides  Others  
We have the Right to Be Safe Safeguarding Disabled Children - Practice Guidance Council for Disabled Children - the umbrella body for the disabled children's sector bringing together professionals, practitioners and policy-makers. 
Learning from Case Reviews - Deaf and Disabled Children Short Breaks - Statutory Guidance  BILD - Learning Disabilities organisation  - Unprotected, Overprotected: Children with learning disabilities at risk of sexual exploitation
Love Life resources for   The Communication Trust - Other Ways of Speaking guidance