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Cuts to Working Together guidance will lead to less protection for disabled children

BASW has warned that proposed changes to child protection guidance may exacerbate the risk of abuse faced by disabled children, as Ofsted publish a new study of 173 cases in 12 local authorities, finding that too many disabled children had child protection needs which went unidentified.

Stressing the need for social workers to be given both the time and training necessary to develop relationships with children, BASW is also concerned by anecdotal reports from members that some local authorities are getting rid of their ‘children with disabilities’ teams as part of cutting costs, and absorbing the work into their mainstream teams.

This move, BASW believes, coupled with loss of third sector support as voluntary organisations struggle with funding, and cuts to essential services like respite care provided by local authorities, is only going to impact badly on the child protection offered to disabled children.

Commenting on Ofsted’s Protecting disabled children: thematic inspection report, which found that disabled children are more likely to be abused than their able bodied peers, Sue Kent, professional officer for the British Association of Social Workers, said:

“The terrible paradox of disabled children being more likely to be abused while less likely to be subject to child protection has been on the radar for many years, yet current plans to cut child protection guidance by the removal of a specific chapter from Working Together, will no doubt lead to confusion and lack of a consistent service from agencies responsible for protecting disabled children.

“The government needs to guard against treating disabled children as second class citizens through inaction and deregulation.

“Disabled children are also being hit harder by cuts, as specialist teams get absorbed into mainstream work, a terrible loss of an important specialism and expertise that risks greater dilution of services to children with disabilities and their families.

“We are also concerned that cuts to benefits, likely to affect an estimated 100,000 disabled children, will put families under increasing strain and increase the risk of neglect and other abuse, which we know is exacerbated by higher levels of stress and family poverty.

“Disabled children are often less able to communicate, can be socially isolated, may receive intimate personal care, are unable to resist or avoid abuse, and generally are more vulnerable to harm.

“Building the relationships necessary to communicate with disabled children is a time consuming and important task. Social workers must be provided with the desperately needed space and training they require to do the work properly.”