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Deaf and disabled children talking about child protection

All children have a right to be safe. This study was commissioned by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) to address a significant gap in current understandings of deaf and disabled children and young people's experiences of the child protection system. Research shows that in addition to being at a greater risk of experiencing child abuse, deaf and disabled children experience a range of barriers in accessing appropriate responses. The abuse of deaf and disabled children is underreported and often hidden and a range of myths and stereotypes surround the abuse they experience. These perpetuate the silence around such abuse and present barriers to help seeking, timely recognition and effective response.

The study addressed four main research questions:

  1. What are deaf and disabled children’s experiences of seeking help about current or past abuse and what are their views and experiences (if any) of child protection systems across the UK?
  2. What barriers to protection exist and how do these impact on deaf and disabled children?
  3. What enablers of protection exist for deaf and disabled children?
  4. How can practitioners better recognise signs of abuse in deaf and disabled children and provide more effective protection?

The study sought direct accounts of help seeking from 10 deaf and disabled people who had experienced abuse in childhood from across the UK. This was often in multiple forms, including sexual, physical and emotional abuse and physical neglect. Despite significant efforts to recruit, a larger number of eligible participants were not forthcoming.