Are social care services meeting the needs of deaf children?

There was a striking story in the papers yesterday about a NSPCC statement that at least 60 children are sexually abused a day. It reminded me of separate statistics suggesting that deaf children are at least twice as likely to be abused than other children – not because they’re deaf, but because the communication barriers that deafness imposes may make it harder for deaf children to say what is happening or because they may be perceived to be an ‘easy target’. Fortunately, it’s still very rare.

NDCS is doing lots of work in the first half of this year over social care services for deaf children – not just to prevent abuse, but to ensure deaf children and their families get the support they need. For example, to get specialist equipment like flashing fire alarms and arrange communication classes for the whole family. Research to be published in late February is expected to show that most don’t, despite the fact that deaf children are recognised in law as “children in need”.

Five years ago, the Government recognised this and recommended that Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards conduct a review of local social care services for every deaf child in their area. To NDCS’s knowledge, to date, none of them have done so. NDCS has had some initial conversations with officials with Department for Children, Schools and Families about how we can make sure these reviews happen, five years on, and hopefully this is something we’ll be working together on. There’s also a couple of consultations NDCS intends to respond to.

If you’ve got a deaf child now, how much contact and support have you had from social care services? Does the support meet your needs? NDCS is looking for examples – good and bad – of how social care services work with families of deaf children. If you’d like to share your experiences in confidence, drop us a line at or leave a message below.


3 thoughts on “Are social care services meeting the needs of deaf children?

  1. Neither the media article or the NDCS said 60 deaf children were abused every day, it is important to be accurate, the story was by the NSPCC, who gave no breakdown via disablements, they could all have been able-bodied with no disability or deafness. From what I see deaf children are very well supported, perhaps in residential school options they are more vulnerable ?

  2. MM,

    The NSPCC stat refers to all children. As I said in my blog, we know that it’s rare but there is a wide bunch of research suggesting that deaf children are at least twice as likely to be abused. That’s ‘at least’ – some research suggests it is much higher. The Government has also accepted this is the case. Below are the sources that NDCS uses. I’ll blog again in February about the new research says.


    The core research sources to support this is:
    ADSS, BDA, LGA. NCB, NDCS & RNID (2002): Deaf Children: Positive Practice Standards in Social Services and NSPCC (2003): It Doesn’t Happen to Disabled Children both cite reliable studies from the USA which indicate that deaf and disabled children are two to three times more likely to suffer physical, sexual or emotional abuse, or to experience neglect (e.g. Sullivan P.M., Brookhouser P., Scanlan J. (2000) Maltreatment of deaf and hard of hearing children in: P. Hindley, N. Kitson (Eds) Mental Health and Deafness (pp. 149-184), London: Whurr

    Secondary research and evidence are:

    SINTEF Halth Research Institute, P.B. 124 Blindern, N-0314, Oslo, Norway

    Accepted 26 September 2003.
    Available online 24 February 2004. is an online neighborhood of hundreds of experts, who share their knowledge with visitors.
    (1998 – sites that deaf children 5x as likely to be abused)
    Source: Sexuality and Disability, Authors: Sullivan P.M.1; Knutson J.F.2 Volume 16, Number 4, 1998 , pp. 295-319
    Association of Directors of Social Services, British Deaf Assn, Local Government Assn, National Children’s Bureau, National Deaf Children’s Assn, Royal National Institute for Deaf People (2002) Deaf Children: Positive Practice Standards in Social Services National Deaf Childrens Society

    Blake, S. and Buttock, S. (2004) PSHE and Citizenship for children and young people with special needs: An agenda for action National Children’s Bureau

    HM Inspectorate of Education, Children’s Services and Skills, Healthcare Commission, Commission for Social Care Inspection, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, HM Inspectorate of Court Administration, HM Inspectorate of Prisons, HM Inspectorate of Probation (2008) Safeguarding Children: The third joint chief inspectors’ report on arrangements to safeguard children.

    Department for Education and Skills (2006) Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education DfES

    Department for Education and Skills, Department of Health (2003) Developing Early Intervention/Support Services for Deaf Children and their Families DfES

    Department for Education and Skills, Department of Health (2003) Together from the Start: Practical guidance for professionals working with disabled children (birth to third birthday) and their families DfES

    Department of Health (2004) National Service Framework for Children, Young People and Maternity Services. Department of Health.

    HM Government (2006) Making Safeguarding Everyone’s Business – Response to the second joint chief inspectors’report on safeguarding children

    HM Government (2008) Staying Safe: Action Plan Department for Children, Schools and Families

    HM Government (2006) Working Together to Safeguard Children: A guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children
    HM Treasury, Dept for Education and Skills (2007) Aiming high for disabled children: Better support for families

    Kovic, Y., Lucas-Hancock, J., and Miller, D (forthcoming) Safe: Personal safety skills for deaf children

    Kvam, M.H. (2004) Sexual abuse of deaf children. A retrospective analysis of the prevalence and characteristics of childhood sexual abuse among deaf adults in Norway, Child Abuse and Neglect 28.

    Marchant, R and Cross, M (2002) ‘how it is’ An image vocabulary for children about: feelings, rights and safety, personal care and sexuality NSPCC

    Mencap (2007) Bullying wrecks lives: the experiences of children and young people with a learning disability

    Miller, D. and Raymond, A. (2008) Safeguarding disabled children in Baginsky, M. ed. Safeguarding children in schools

    Morris, J., Council for Disabled Children (2006) Safeguarding Disabled Children – a resource for local safeguarding children boards

    Morris, J. Ed. (2003) It doesn’t happen to disabled children: Child protection and disabled children: The report of the National Working Group on Child Protection and Disability NSPCC

    Office of the Children’s Commissioner (2007) Bullying today: a Report by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner

    Stuart, M. and Baines, C. (2004) Progress on safeguards for children living away from home: a review of action since the People Like Us report. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation

    Sullivan, P.M. and Knutson, J.F (2000) Maltreatment and Disabilities: a population based epidemiological study, Child Abuse and Neglect 24.

    Utting, W. (1997) People Like Us: The report of the review of the safeguards for children living away from home. London: The Stationary Office

  3. For statistical purposes assumptions are not enough I fear, you need proof. If you take a much online quoted statistic like “1 in 7” which the UK and RNID charity puts out as official, is a guesstimate too, indeed 90,000 BSL using deaf people is also an guesstimate. I can well understand why the spin on stats helps charities like the RNID/NDCS, all charities do this, but as with 1 in 7, even IF 9 million people exist with some form of hearing loss, 8 million 500 thousand will not require anything much in support terms… you can suggest they might ! AN TV advert suggested 3 million need hearing aids, that still leaves 5 point 5 million who need nothing at all…. The BSL statistic is also totally unprovable, there is no system extant in the United Kingdom for recording that. I could say 3,000 that is it, and it is probably a more accurate figure. The down-side of estimates is it creates fear in parents minds their children may be suffering an abuse they aren’t. Most high profile cases of deaf children being abused came from the archaic deaf school/residential systems, and cases brought by adults, but we are getting rid of residential deaf schools every year now, I think only about 30 or less exist in the UK, and they are subject to heavy monitoring now. One advantage of suggesting astronomical/hidden abuse figures is this pushes the system to monitor things better, so justified (Just about !), on that basis. Most children are vulnerable by default and especially disabled ones, but that doesn’t mean they are all abused. You need to be careful not to alienate the hard working support they get.

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