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Disabled children and the child protection system : a cause for concern

Taylor, Julie and Stalker, Kirsten and Stewart, Alasdair (2015) Disabled children and the child protection system : a cause for concern. Child Abuse Review. ISSN 0952-9136

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Disabled children are more likely to be abused than their non-disabled peers. Despite this heightened risk, the abuse of disabled children goes undetected and under-reported. This qualitative study investigated the specific issues faced by practitioners in Scotland in supporting disabled children at risk of significant harm. Interviews were held with participants from six local authority areas and across five different services and five focus groups with Child Protection Committees (total 61 participants). There were positive messages about putting the child at the very heart of child protection assessment and intervention, regardless of any impairment a child may have. However, there was also concern that practice was at times parent-centred. Some participants appeared to be ‘muddling through’ in practice and many practitioners lacked confidence when working with disabled children. Data from this study suggests that thresholds for disabled children may be higher than for non-disabled children. Participants reported high levels of interagency working and saw this as inherently positive, although they recognised some failings and tensions. There is widespread commitment across the child protection system to putting the child at the centre. However, getting it right for every child does not mean treating every child the same.