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Analyzing the links between disability and child abuse and evaluating the role of Social Services with regards to Disabled Child Protection

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  1. Introduction
  2. The social construction of disability
  3. Social work and disabled people
  4. The myths of disability and child abuse
  5. Social work and the child protection system
  6. The abuse of disabled children
  7. The implications for social work
  8. Conclusion
  9. References

The protection of children is today a high profile issue, within both the voluntary and statutory sectors, although the abuse of disabled children is a matter that has only recently attracted professional interest. Whilst many people find it difficult to believe that disabled children, some of whom are the most vulnerable members of our society can fall victim to abuse, research evidence leaves little doubt that such is in fact the case. (Westcott, 1993) Indeed, whilst research into the abuse of disabled children can be traced back more than two decades, the phenomenon itself has largely been neglected, in both academic and professional circles. Although there is increasing evidence to indicate a growing awareness of the particular vulnerabilities and child protection needs of disabled children, much still remains to be done.

The aim of this piece of work is to explore the links between disability and child abuse and to evaluate the role of social workers and social services departments in the protection of disabled children. Disabled children and children with disabilities are terms that will be used interchangeably. The definition of abuse will relate to acts of physical, sexual, emotional abuse and neglect, with the acknowledgement that deliberate acts of abuse can and often are perpetrated by people of both sexes in a variety of different settings. Whilst it is recognized that discrimination and oppression are forms of abuse, the primary definition within this study relates to those actions or omissions that are commonly associated with or attract the term child abuse. Although the study will focus particularly upon children with physical disabilities, research evidence relating to children with learning difficulties will be presented where it is both relevant and appropriate.

[...] Kelly, L (1992) The Connection Between Disability and Child Abuse: A Review of the Research Evidence, Child Abuse Review pp. 188-190. Kempe, R.S. and Kempe, C.H. (1978) Child Abuse, London, Open Books. Kennedy, M. Overcoming Myths: The Abused Disabled Child, Concern, In Concern Summer 1990. Kennedy, M. (1990) No More Secrets - Please, Deafness, pp. 10-12. Kennedy, M. (1989) ?Child abuse - disabled children suffer too' Childright, No pp. 18-20. Knight, R. and Warren, M. (1978) Physically Handicapped people Living at Home: A Study of Numbers and Needs, London, H.M.S.O. [...]

[...] (1992) ?Changing The Social Relations of Research Production', Disability, Handicap and Society pp. 101-114. Oliver, M. (1990) The Politics of Disablement, London, Macmillan Education. Oswin, M. (1971) The Empty Hours, London, Allen Lane. Parsloe, P and Stevenson, O. (1978) Social Work Teams: The Practitioners' View, London, H.M.S.O. Parton, C. and Parton, N. (1989) ?Some Problems in Predicting Child Abuse and Neglect', in Stevenson, O. (ed.) (1989) Child Abuse: Professional Practice and Public Policy, London, Harvester Weatsheaf. Parton, N. (1985) The Politics of Child Abuse, Macmillan, London. [...]

[...] (Middleton, 1992:64) The Myths of Disability and Child Abuse For many people, the abuse of children with disabilities is a difficult notion to comprehend, there is child abuse and there are disabled children and the two areas are mutually exclusive. From the very same ideology that has served to shape and inform the individual and medical models of disability, have emerged myths relating to the abuse of disabled children. Such myths inevitably portray disabled children as objects of sympathy who suffer pain bravely and are happy and contented despite their disadvantaged position. [...]

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