Too many disabled children are not having their child protection needs identified, a new Ofsted report has revealed.
The report, 'Protecting disabled children: thematic inspection', looks at child protection measures in place in 12 local authorities, and considers the route through the care system of 173 disabled children. The report aimed to see how the system works in ensuring disabled children are protected from harm.
Although the report highlights many examples of good practice multi-agency work, it was felt child protection concerns were not always identified or dealt with early enough, and often historical concerns were not taken into account. This includes an example in the report where the mother of a child with learning disabilities was supported by a family support worker.
In this example, the mother began a relationship with a man who had a history of violence. The Youth Offending Service alerted children's social care but no assessment was undertaken until an incident of domestic violence was reported some seven months later.
As a result of examples such as this, Ofsted has called on local authorities and Local Safeguarding Children Boards to ensure thresholds for child protection are understood and applied at every stage when agencies work with disabled children, and to establish robust systems to assess and evaluate the quality and impact of professionals' work with them.
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. This report examines in depth, through the experiences of individual children, some of the reasons for that discrepancy.
"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."
Richard Cattell, Professional Practice Development Lead at The College of Social Work, said: "Social workers have a key role to play in the identification of children at risk and they need to be supported by their employers to ensure that they are receiving regular supervision and are only undertaking work for which they are professionally equipped.
"TCSW recognises the importance of continuing professional development post qualification to ensure that social workers, at every level of their career, are supported in developing the professional skills, knowledge and experience to ensure high standards of professional capability.
"We urge all employers and social workers to adopt The College's Professional Capabilities Framework and the development of specialist learning pathways within it as the point of reference for continued and targeted learning for all social workers.
"It is only through being aware of and addressing gaps in expertise that we can work together to raise and maintain professional standards."
Story posted by Robert Mair on 22 August 2012