4.1. The majority of children live at home. This chapter focuses on children receiving universal services and children in need, including those in need of protection, children with disabilities and children on care orders who have been placed at home. It also considers children placed for adoption. Children encounter a wide range of agencies: schools, the NHS, and sometimes social services and the police. Also, agencies are increasingly commissioning services from the private and voluntary sectors as well as providing them directly.
4.2. This chapter looks at how well agencies safeguard children living at home, and, where possible, how children themselves feel about it. Some of the findings apply to children in all settings, not just those living at home. Evidence comes from mainstrea
m inspections of social services, schools and other education settings and health services and from a recent thematic inspection of the investigation and prevention of child abuse by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary [ref. 7 ]. This chapter does not cover in detail the experiences of children and young people in the private and voluntary health sector, although safeguarding arrangements are an important feature of the regulation and inspection work the Healthcare Commission has carried out in that sector since April 2004. Detailed findings are included in the Healthcare Commission’s published reports.
4.3. Special attention is given in this chapter to children with disabilities living at home, in line with the recommendation from the first Safeguarding Children report. Children with disabilities are especially vulnerable and research evidence suggests they are much more likely to suffer abuse and neglect than other children [refs. 8, and 9 ]. Welfare concerns sometimes go unnoticed because of the difficulties of identifying the signs of abuse or of communicating with some children, or because of reluctance by practitioners to suspect abuse.
4.4. There are varying definitions of disability in use. Alongside children with disabilities, we have considered other children with additional needs in this report in view of their increased vulnerability. This includes children with statements of special educational needs for emotional, behavioural and social difficulties as well as those with learning or physical disabilities. This chapter includes evidence about children with disabilities from social services and education inspections and from a special review of 10 special schools and 17 resource centres for pupils with special educational needs in mainstream schools.
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4.52 There has been considerable progress since 2002 in the extent to which agencies give priority to safeguarding children who live at home. This is illustrated by greater effort devoted to listening to and consulting with children, increased commitment at senior levels to safeguarding and more extensive inclusion of safeguarding in policies and procedures. Many agencies are now working together better, assisted by greater clarity about respective roles and responsibilities, and have put effort into improving working relationships. Also, there are many skilled and committed staff working with children and young people.
4.53 However, children are not uniformly receiving the care and protection they need and there are a number of key areas for improvement. Some of the issues will be addressed through the development of the Every Child Matters agenda, and agencies need to continue to build on the good work carried out since 2002. Areas for improvement include:
- monitoring how extensively the safeguarding ethos spreads throughout organisations;
- giving priority to the safeguarding needs of children with disabilities; children aged 16-18 with a mental health condition or a chronic illness; and children placed for adoption;
- giving greater consideration to the complexity of working with children with language and communication difficulties;
- clarifying for staff how to recognise and report the signs of abuse or neglect;
- clarifying thresholds in social services to ensure that all children in need receive an adequate response;
- improving relationships and communication between some agencies, for example between education and social services and NHS trusts and social services, especially where social services thresholds are perceived to be high. These need to be jointly addressed by the agencies concerned through the Every Child Matters: Change for Children agenda;
- addressing the variation in the membership and effectiveness of ACPCs in consulting on and establishing Local Safeguarding Children Boards; and
- ensuring consistent recruitment and checking procedures for new and existing staff and contractors who are in contact with children.