Neglect of Disabled Children
Margaret Kennedy and Jane Wonnacott
It is paradoxical that we write a chapter on neglect of disabled children which might be perceived as what happens within families when, in fact, the whole area of the protection of disabled children within the abuse arena has been almost totally ignored – neglected. For this reason, when we write about the neglect of disabled children, we also need to address this systemic 'invisibleness' of disabled children within society, research, service provision and child protection.
It is estimated that around 400,000 disabled children are currently being brought up in the UK, with over 100,000 being described as being severely disabled (Department of Health 2001). Of these, around 17,000 families are thought to include more than one disabled child, with some 7500 families having two or more severely disabled children (Tozer 1999). Most of these children live at home with their families the majority of the time (Fazil et al. 2002).
Almost all research in the UK on abuse of children fails to address the experience of disabled children. What has tended to happen is that government departments assume that the research done on non-disabled children will be representative of all children, including disabled children. We argue that this is a 'false assumption', which ignores the impact of impairment, discrimination and prejudice on the protection of disabled children. Anne Wilson Schaef (1992) shows how this did not work for black people during the lengthy debates on equality and racism, nor does it work for women during the debates on sexism. She says:
When we are deprived of the freedom of exploring what it means to grow up
female in a White Male System (read 'disabled in a non-disabled world') we are
robbed of our experiences and our souls. Our differences give us our identity. (p.77,
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Publication information: Book title: Child Neglect: Practice Issues for Health and Social Care. Contributors: Julie Taylor - Editor, Brigid Daniel - Editor. Publisher: Jessica Kingsley. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 2005. Page number: 228.
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