National guidance for child protection in Scotland: protecting disabled children from abuse and neglect

Notes for all practitioners including those working in: children and family social work; health; education; residential care; early years; youth services; youth justice; police; independent and third sector; and adult services who might be supporting parents with disabled children or involved in the transition between child and adult services.

9. Key messages for practice

  • Essentially, disabled children at risk of or who have experienced abuse should be treated with the same degree of professional concern accorded to non-disabled children.
  • Additional resources and time may need to be allocated, if an investigation of potential or alleged abuse is to be meaningful. This is a basic premise and should not be ignored at any stage of the child protection process.
  • Basic training and awareness raising of the susceptibility of disabled children to abuse is essential for all those working with disabled children, including ancillary staff such as bus drivers, care assistants, escorts and personal assistants.
  • Reporting child protection concerns needs to be encouraged at all levels of professional involvement; and prompt and detailed information sharing is vital.
  • The disability with which a child presents should not detract from early multi-agency assessments of need that consider possible underlying causes for concern.
  • There should be a clear agreement within the local authority as to who takes the lead role for child protection referrals and investigations and this should be identified in local procedures. Best practice would indicate that child protection teams lead on child protection but do so in consultation with specialist disability teams or the workers involved with child, as there may be other children in family requiring assessment etc. the rationale for this is, not all practitioners working in speciality disability teams are trained to carry out child protection procedures. Similarly, those working in child & families teams may not feel confident about assessing the wellbeing and protection needs of a disabled child. There may also be liaison with adult protection for older young people.
  • It is fundamental that all staff working with disabled children or who are likely to receive child protection referrals concerning disabled children, receive appropriate training to equip them with the knowledge and awareness to assess risk of harm to a disabled child and know how best to work together to provide a high quality service to the child.
  • Where a criminal offence is alleged, investigation by the police needs to be handled sensitively and in accordance with Vulnerable Witnesses (Scotland) Act (2004).
  • Parents and carers need to be made aware (if they are not already) of the vulnerability of their children to abuse or neglect, but also of their potential role in the child protection process.


Email: Sandra Aitken

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