Deaf children failed by LAs and more likely to be abused
Research commissioned for the National Deaf Children's Society by the University of Manchester, and published in Every Child Journal, has revealed that social care and child protection services across England are failing deaf children and their families. As a result, deaf children are more likely to be abused, suffer mental health problems, struggle learning to read and become unemployed.
The study of 57 local authorities suggests that almost two-thirds are failing deaf children and their families - with deaf children 3.4 times more likely to be abused and 40% having mental health problems.
The research also shows that only 40% of local authorities surveyed recognised deaf children as ‘children in need’ and, even then, did not necessarily provide any services. On top of this, nearly half of authorities have no qualified social workers for deaf children, and too many authorities showed an inability to act appropriately to tackle child protection issues involving deaf children.
Only a third of local authorities had specialist teams or arrangements with designated responsibility for deaf children and their families. Four authorities were found to have no designated services arrangements at all for deaf children and their families.
Only 37% of local authorities surveyed showed evidence of co-working arrangements between child protection teams and specialist social workers, and 18% described a situation in which there was no co-working at all.
Six had specialist deaf children and families teams, but in two there were no social work qualified staff.
Over a quarter of the Local Authorities did not employ any qualified workers who were specialist working d/Deaf adults and/or deaf children.
In 46% of the Local Authorities there were no qualified social workers who worked with deaf children and their families either as officially part of or as the whole of their job remit.
The median staff complement of qualified social workers working with deaf children and their families was 0.25.
In half of the Authorities, there were no systematic arrangements for ensuring that deaf children and their families received a joint assessment involving health, education and social care, nor a defined multi-disciplinary ‘pathway’ for planning and service provision.
Over 50% of Authorities said they had no formal referral arrangements between social work and education professionals “where deaf children and their families may require assessment and/or service provision”.
Nearly 45% of Authorities said they had no formal referral arrangements between social work and health professionals “where deaf children and their families may require assessment and/or service provision”.
Just over a third of Authorities said education colleagues were responsible for the needs of deaf children and their families, including all social care needs, unless exceptional circumstances occurred requiring statutory social work involvement. In these Authorities, there was no assumption of the routine involvement of social care professionals in the assessment or provision of services to deaf children and their families.
The NDCS has had longstanding concerns that deaf children and their families cannot access appropriate social care support including child protection services. This is despite the fact that deaf children are recognised by law as “children in need” which means that social care agencies are legally required to provide services for them.
The society is now calling on the Government to improve the situation and ensure a 2005 Department of Health recommendation, urging all Local Safeguarding Children Boards to review their child protection arrangements for deaf children, is carried out.
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