A church charity is urging the Government to grant all disabled children placed away from home unconditional access to an independent advocate.
In support of The Children's Society's new campaign, launched yesterday, an Ipsos MORI survey commissioned by the charity revealed 'overwhelming' public support for improving existing services for disabled children.
According to the new survey more than eight out of ten adults agree that disabled children and young people placed away from home should have access to an independent advocate.
The survey also reveals that 87 percent of adults agree that all disabled children should be entitled to support to give them a say in the decisions made about their lives and three quarters say that more needs to be done to improve support given to disabled children.
There are more than 13,000 disabled children placed away from home yet alarming research reveals that only five percent of them have had access to an independent advocate. The absence of an advocate leaves them open to bullying, intimidation, and demeaning treatment.
An advocate can help disabled children get their views across and take part in decisions that affect their lives. For these children (many who have serious communication difficulties) making choices and decisions depends on being able to communicate preferences and having someone who is willing to take the time to listen and understand.
Independent advocacy is an important source of protection giving disabled children a voice within an otherwise closed system.
Earlier research has shown disabled children are more likely to be abused than other children.
Children and young people have said they are often intimidated when involved in meetings about their care and not given enough time to get their views across.
The Government is currently reviewing its support for children placed away from home in a consultation document, the 'Care Matters' Green Paper. The Children's Society is lobbying the Minister for Children, Beverley Hughes MP for a statutory right for disabled children placed away from home to access independent advocacy.
Penny Nicholls, Strategy Director at The Children's Society, said: "There are simple things in life most of us take for granted such as choosing the food we eat, when we go to the toilet and speaking out when we feel threatened. Disabled children placed away from home are often denied these very basic rights and are more at risk of harm than other children. Every child deserves a good childhood and disabled children placed away from home should have access to an independent advocate to safeguard this entitlement."
Christine Lenehan, Director at Council for Disabled Children endorsed the campaign: "For too long disabled children placed away from home, have been invisible children deprived of their right to communicate their concerns. Every Disabled Child Matters applauds The Children's Society for taking this campaign forward."
Paralympic medal winner and disability campaigner Ade Adepitan pledged his support for the campaign: "Sometimes it's hard enough to be heard when you are disabled, but it's even worse if you have difficulty communicating. I am supporting The Children's Society's campaign to ensure disabled children placed away from home have the opportunity to reach their potential and realise their ambitions."