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A boy and his teacher smiling at
                  each other

This section is to be read in the context of the introduction to safeguarding at Level B.

It does not form part of a systematic review of safeguarding within this module (which is the requirement of statutory safeguarding and child protection training), but raises additional relevant issues related to personal care.

The legislative context
Shelves of documents

The general legislative context for safeguarding disabled children is the same as for all children. The same principles and the same duties apply, whether a child is disabled or not.

Murray and Osborne, 2009

People with learning disabilities have the right to be protected from situations that leave them vulnerable to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or exploitation by others. Carers have the right to know that there is appropriate protection to ensure the 'safety' of the person they care for.

Identifying signs of risk or abuse

[In Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation] the DCSF noted staff should be able to identify signs that a child or young person is at risk of or suffering sexual exploitation, and know what action to take in line with local procedures.

Ubido et al, 2009

For those [children and young people] who are unable to verbalise victimisation, practitioners should be alerted to the possibilities of abuse when children with disabilities demonstrate alterations in bowel and bladder patterns, appetite, sleep, mood, or behaviours or seem less willing to engage in community participation.

Murphy and Young, 2005

The importance of
sex education
Several pupils writing

Parents and health care providers may react to the fears of sexual abuse by protecting children with disabilities from unsupervised social contacts, thereby inadvertently denying them critical opportunities to develop social skills and appropriate personal boundaries. Because some caregivers may fear that talking about sexuality will promote sexual behaviour, children with disabilities are often sheltered from sexuality education. The available evidence suggests that when sexual questions and behaviours of individuals are freely discussed within a family, the likelihood of abuse can be reduced or eliminated.

Murphy and Young, 2005

Sharing information

Protecting the privacy and dignity of children and young people has clear implications for sharing information about them. Information about a child or young person should only be shared with those who need that information in order to care safely for or safeguard them. However, not all information known should be shared with everyone who works with the child.

Schools must have a clear policy on sharing information that is understood by parents. Staff training should include this, and emphasise restrictions on sharing information electronically or via social networks.

Read this document for some examples of information sharing.


Abuse is on a continuum. Certain types of harm experienced by disabled children are not always recognised, for example:

  • Failure to meet communication needs to the point where development is impaired.
  • Failure to meet intimate care needs.
  • Unsanctioned physical interventions.
  • Inappropriate behaviour modification.
  • Exclusion of access to ordinary family life and social and emotional development.
  • Unnecessary or unskilled invasive procedures.
  • Ill-fitting or inappropriate equipment which may cause pain or injury.
  • Misuse of medication.
  • Being denied access to education, play and leisure opportunities.

Find out more
Open book

Department for Children, Schools and Families/Murray, M. and Osbourne, C. (2009) Safeguarding Disabled Children: Practice guidance. Annesley: DCSF Publications.