Legislation on safeguarding d/Deaf and disabled children
Statutory guidance across the UK highlights the responsibility of those in education, community and care sectors to safeguard all children from all forms of abuse and neglect.
The statutory guidance in all nations includes sections on safeguarding disabled children and young people. Find out more about child protection in:
See also Key guidance for schools in the UK.
Key legislation and guidance
The key legislation relating to the safeguarding of d/Deaf and disabled children in England is the Children and Families Act 2014. Part 3 establishes help for children with special educational needs and disabilities, including a single assessment process and personal budgets.
Under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, local authorities in England must also safeguard and promote the welfare of children in need. A child in need is a child who is unlikely to achieve or maintain, or have the opportunity to achieve or maintain, a reasonable standard of health and development without any support provided by a public authority. This may include having a disability.
In Northern Ireland, The Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 sets out how children in need and their families are supported, including giving information about the assessment of carers of disabled children.
In Scotland, Sections 23 and 24 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 refer specifically to disabled children. The Act requires local authorities to give disabled children the opportunity to lead lives which are "as normal as possible". It also requires local authorities to promote the welfare of children in need.
The Scottish Government has published guidance on supporting disabled children, young people and their families. This guidance includes information and advice on disabled children’s rights, supporting their mental health and wellbeing and child protection (Scottish Government, 2019).
In Wales, Section 15 of the Social Services and Well-Being (Wales) Act 2014 requires local authorities to minimise the effects of disabilities on disabled people.
The Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011 embeds the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Welsh law, including giving disabled children the right to protection, participation and service provision.
> Read more about the legislation and guidance relating to children with special educational needs
In England, Scotland and Wales, the Equality Act 2010 provides protection from discrimination against disabled people, requiring service providers to make sure their service is accessible for disabled people to the same standards as non-disabled people.
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 provides protection from discrimination against disabled people in Northern Ireland. Schedule 8 prohibits discrimination against disabled people relating to goods and services.
Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 requires public authorities to promote equality of opportunity between disabled and non-disabled people.
Medical care and health conditions
There is guidance on administering medication and providing medical care for schools and residential settings in each UK nation.
In England mainstream schools should follow the Department for Education (DfE) guidance on supporting pupils at school with medical conditions (DfE, 2015b). There is separate guidance for residential special schools (DFE, 2015a) and children’s homes (DfE, 2015c).
Schools in Northern Ireland should follow Supporting pupils with medication needs (DoE and DHSSPS, 2009). Children’s homes must meet the Minimum standards (DHSSPS, 2014).
In Scotland, the key guidance relating to medication in schools is Supporting children and young people with healthcare needs in schools (Scottish Government, 2017). There is a section on medication in the National care standards for children’s homes (Scottish Government, 2011).
In Wales, schools should follow Supporting learners with healthcare needs (Welsh Government, 2017). There are National minimum standards covering medication for residential special schools (Welsh Government, 2003) and children’s homes (Welsh Government, 2002).
Special measures for disabled child witnesses
Across all four nations in the UK, there are statutory ‘special measures’ that can be used for the purpose of taking evidence from a vulnerable witness, including disabled children.
- screening the witnesses from the accused
- giving evidence by live link
- giving evidence in private.
If a young witness is disabled, they may have particular difficulties attending court and giving evidence.
In England and Wales, the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 introduced a range of measures to help children in these circumstances. Section 16 specifies the grounds on which a child may be eligible for assistance.
The Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 makes provision for assistance such as communication for witnesses who are disabled. The Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 raised the maximum age for eligibility for assistance from 17 to 18.
The Vulnerable Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2004 defines and outlines the provisions for vulnerable witnesses in Section 1.
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