Disabled children and their families are one of the most severely disadvantaged groups in the UK.
A major research report published in 2021 found that most English Children’s Services Authorities operate a ‘one size-fits-all’ approach to families – regardless of whether it is a parent carer seeking support for a disabled child or a family where the evidence suggests there to be neglect or abuse. The effect of this approach is to create an institutional culture of ‘parent blame’.
Follow up research ‘Challenging Parent Carer Blame: Disability and human rights training and guidance’ to be published on 18 October 2022 identifies a troubling failure by English Children’s Services Authorities to adequately resource and train their staff who have responsibility for assessing and supporting disabled children and their families.
These findings include:
- That on average only 2.5 per cent of disabled children are (at any one time) receiving support from a Disabled Children’s social work team
- That there was no evidence that Children’s Services authorities were providing training courses of a depth or weight that would provide assessors with an understanding of:
– their statutory obligations to provide care and support to disabled children and their families
– the disability related challenges that disabled children and their families encounter
– their obligations under the Human Rights Act 1998 including their duties to respect private and family life
- That the training provided to assessors of disabled children had an overriding focus on ‘safeguarding’ rather than on support
- The report concludes that the Secretary of State for Education must now be aware that local authorities have failed to develop and implement fit-for-purpose local assessment protocols, despite being instructed to do this in 2013.
In relation to the findings of the report, Beverly Hitchcock, Acting Head of Research and Information at Cerebra stated:
“Cerebra supports high quality discovery research that can improve the quality of life for children with neurodevelopmental conditions and their families. It is concerning to note that such a small percentage of disabled children get access to a Disabled Children’s team and to the support that they both need and are entitled to. This failure is compounded by the lack of adequate staff training in the care and support that disabled children and their families require to alleviate the challenges and barriers that they face on a regular basis. Access to appropriate social care services is vital if we are to live in a society where children with neurodevelopmental conditions can fulfil their greatest potential without barriers to their complete participation in society.”
In relation to the findings of the report, Professor Luke Clements stated:
“These findings add to existing and serious concerns about the treatment of disabled children and their families by many English Children’s Services authorities. Families have long complained about the fact that the needs of their children are being assessed by ‘child protection’ social workers who have little or no training concerning the complexities of their child’s impairments or of the families’ legal entitlements to care and support: social workers who appear to be working to a script that assumes parental failing and neglect.
The provisional finding that 97.5 percent of disabled children are not in touch with a dedicated Disabled Children team speaks volumes about these concerns”.
- The 2022 ‘Challenging Parent Carer Blame: Disability and human rights training and guidance’ research report (and the 2021 research) was undertaken by the Cerebra Legal Entitlements and Problem-solving (LEaP) Project at the School of Law, Leeds University.
- The research is based on responses made by 64 English Children’s Services authorities to Freedom of Information requests made between July 2021 and November 2021 and an analysis of data published on the websites of 64 English Children’s Services authorities.
- Cerebra is a national charity helping children with brain conditions and their families to discover a better life together.