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IICSA published its final Report in October 2022. This website was last updated in January 2023.

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Final report

D.2: Children with additional needs

6. Children with complex needs may struggle to overcome communication difficulties, either because of the nature of a disability or because their carers may not understand their method of communication.[1] Some children’s needs may also mean that the child does not always appreciate or understand why abusive behaviour is inappropriate and might find it difficult to recognise and disclose concerns or sexual abuse.[2]

7. Research shows that children with complex needs are at a significantly greater risk of sexual abuse.[3] Disabled children are almost three times more likely to experience sexual violence than non-disabled children.[4] The 2019 Office for National Statistics (ONS) Crime Survey recorded that adults with a disability were twice as likely to have experienced child sexual abuse (13.4 percent) as those without a disability (6.6 percent).[5]

8. Some children who have emotional, educational or behavioural needs live in residential special schools.[6] In addition to living away from home, these needs can render them particularly vulnerable.[7] In a 2007 study, 88 percent of special schools reported that they had encountered sexually inappropriate pupil behaviour.[8] Research by the Inquiry found that special schools recorded nearly 10 times the number of concerns per student than other residential schools.[9] This may suggest that special schools are identifying and reporting a higher proportion of incidents taking place or that more concerns of a sexual nature occur in these settings due to the additional needs of the pupils.

9. Specialist support may be necessary to help children with additional needs express themselves. Some valuable support is already available. Advocacy services have grown in number and expertise in recent years and if properly resourced may be able to assist children with disabilities in understanding grooming and reporting sexual abuse if it happens.

10. It also remains the case that there is a lack of knowledge, understanding and awareness about the sexual abuse of children with additional needs.[10] For example, many professionals, carers and the wider community need a better understanding of sexual exploitation involving children with disabilities to ensure that the risks to those children are identified and appropriate action taken.[11]

11. As part of child protection, adults have a responsibility to pay attention to children and their individual needs and wishes. Specialist advice and signposting to relevant resources should be available from the Child Protection Authorities recommended in Part C.

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