New research reveals children with learning disabilities are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation than other children, facing additional barriers to their protection and to receiving support.
This issue is particularly hidden because few children with learning disabilities meet high thresholds for support from services. There is also limited awareness that young people with learning disabilities are sexually exploited.
Unprotected, Overprotected reveals that significant numbers of children with learning disabilities are not being adequately protected from sexual exploitation because of the false perception that they do not need sex and relationships education or accessible information about how to keep safe online and in the community.
The research also reveals that significant numbers of children with learning disabilities are not being adequately protected due to a worrying lack of specialist services and a failure to implement existing national and local policies.
The report, which was commissioned by Comic Relief, and undertaken by Barnardo’s, The Children’s Society, British Institute of Learning Disabilities (BILD), Paradigm Research and Coventry University, calls on governments in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to ensure that accessible and relevant sex and relationship education is made available to children and young people with learning disabilities.
The research highlights the need for more training for professionals and for services to work together to better prevent, identify and provide effective support for these children. Support for parents and awareness raising in the community is also crucial to making sure that children with learning disabilities are kept safe from sexual exploitation.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan, said; “No-one wants to believe a child with learning disabilities could ever be exploited in this way, but it is happening all over the UK.
“A lack of awareness of the needs of these vulnerable children is playing into the hands of perpetrators of sexual exploitation.
“Professionals working with children must get training to recognise the risks faced by children with learning disabilities and help them to stay safe.”
To read the report Unprotected, Overprotected, click here:
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