Kids with disability abused more: study

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disabled-children-abuseDISABLED children are more than three times as likely as able-bodied children to be abused or neglected, a new report says.

The Children with Disability Australia policy paper released in Sydney on Tuesday says many abuse cases border on criminality and many go unreported because the victims were less likely to complain.

Report author Sally Robinson, from Southern Cross University, said the abuse ranged from extreme physical assaults to children being locked in rooms without windows.

There were also cases of children being pinned down by teachers trained in behaviour management by martial arts practitioners rather than behaviour management specialists, she said.

Such abuse was often swept aside and sometimes poorly recognised by people in positions to take action against it.

Reasons for under-reporting included lack of support to make a complaint, children not having the language skills to name the harm they underwent and intimidation and fear.

Dr Robinson said the vast majority of people who worked with disabled children were skilled, committed and well-intentioned.

“However, the fact remains that we know that kids with disabilities experience abuse and neglect at over three times the rate that children without disability do,” she said.

The federal government’s National Disability Insurance Scheme may provide an important safety net, giving people the resources they needed to overcome barriers stopping them from participating in society, Dr Robinson said.

The report recommended the government establish an independent statutory authority charged with protecting disabled children and investigating exploitation, violence and abuse.

Receiving the report on Tuesday, federal parliamentary secretary for disabilities Jan McLucas said it would help governments and the community sector prevent such abuse.

She said the report underscored the importance of the federal government’s work in removing barriers for people with disabilities.

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