Safeguarding and involving the disabled child and young person in sport

The following guidance comes from the Child Protection in Sport Unit.


Despite some traditional negative misconceptions about young people with a disability or hearing impairment, the reality is that the vast majority of deaf and disabled children and young people are ready, willing and able to participate in sport and physical activity when they have access to facilities and suitably trained staff to support them. The CPSU believe that when supporting the inclusion of deaf and disabled children and young people, sport needs to also recognise the addtional vulnerabilities these young people experience and that "child protection procedures, guidance and training help staff and volunteers to recognise the additional vulnerability of some children and the extra barriers they face in getting help".

The English Federation of Disability Sport consider that disability itself is a complex concept, with many impairments included in the definition. It is often represented by the wheelchair symbol, but the majority of disabled people have less visible impairments, including learning difficulties, sight or hearing conditions, mental health issues and long-term progressive impairments. Types of disability can range from mild to moderate to severe. A child with mild autism, for example, may have impaired social skills but his or her motor skills may be unaffected. Similarly, a child with a learning disability or epilepsy will be affected by the severity of the disability, not the disability itself.

Vulnerablity and Abuse

It is noted that Disabled children are up to four times as likely to be abused as non-disabled children. Deaf and disabled children may be especially vulnerable to abuse for many reasons such as:

Communication needs may also make it difficult to tell others what is happening, as well as limited access to someone to disclose information to and a particular vulnerability to bullying.

Deaf and disabled children and young people’s vulnerability is increased by:

Deaf and disabled children may be additionally abused in a number of ways:

By lifting barriers that stop disabled children from being fully integrated into mainstream life, they can also be more effectively safeguarded from abuse. The additional vulnerability of deaf and disabled children to abuse can be addressed through the reduction of isolation, passivity and increased awareness. By involving deaf and disabled children and young people in this work we can draw on their strengths and skills, empowering them to take an active role as a participant. Sports organisations should ensure that activities are led by the interests and enthusiasm of all participants.

Barriers to participation for the deaf and disabled child

Common barriers which face the deaf and disabled child becoming involved in sport include:

The CPSU fervently hope that by working towards the lifting of barriers that stop deaf and disabled children from being fully integrated into mainstream life, they can more effectively be safeguarded from abuse.

Particular concerns with regard to those with celebral palsy

The inclusion of children with disabilities in sport has been identified as a key safeguarding issue. It is important that we explore the experiences of children with disabilities regarding the sporting context to ensure that appropriate steps are taken to optimise the effectiveness of inclusion. A range of benefits of participation were identified:

Barriers to Participation, with specific respect to celebral palsy

A number of factors have been highlighted which could either facilitate inclusion or represent significant barriers:

Overall, communication between staff and students with cerebral palsy is vital to ensure the individual’s needs are being met. However, one can continue to develop generic safeguarding when involving disabled children and young people in sport.

To those who are working to include children with cerebral palsy, the message was clear that not all children with cerebral palsy are the same. As a result, having open lines of communication is essential to enable effective inclusion.

Postitive Interventions

Positive benefits of inclusion in sports includes self-esteem of the children and young people, and the opportunity for them to have, and develop socialisation skills and interpersonal relationships. There can also be benefits to the children’s mobility.

Effective communication between the children and their teachers, coaches and support staff ensures that their needs are fulfilled. Each child with celebral palsy is different and has differing needs: so general guidance does not effectively support all children and young people with celebral palsy. Consequently open lines of communication are essential to facilitate effective inclusion in sport.

If a young person has a sensory impairment or disability that affects their ability to communicate then particular attention needs to be given to involve someone with expertise in that particular area.

Through the reduction of isolation, passivity and the increase of awareness, the additional vulnerability of deaf and disabled children to abuse can be addressed. By involving deaf and disabled children and young people society and sport can draw upon their strengths and skills and empower them as active participants.

Inclusion of deaf and disabled children and young people within sport should ensure

Safeguarding training is an essential aspect of protecting deaf and disabled children and young people, a lack of understanding about safeguarding can result in failure to recognise the signs of abuse or neglect. Given that research has indicated that the identification of abuse of the disabled child is most likely to come from observations of physical signs, behaviour or mood changes, it is very important to highten awareness. Some of this can come from attending suitable training courses (see Training).

Furhter information on including and getting children and young people to participate in sport can also be be found from

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