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Disability Equality In Sport



Safeguarding Disabled Children and Young People

Briefing from the Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU)

The responsibility of sporting organisations for the safeguarding of disabled children and young people is already set out in the Standards for Safeguarding Children in Sport. These reflect legislative requirements such as the Children Acts 1989 and 2004 and government guidance ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ 2010.

The Standards also recognise that being deaf or disabled makes a child additionally vulnerable to abuse or neglect. Research indicates that:

  • disabled children are up to four times as likely to be abused as non‐disabled children.
  • International research consistently shows that deaf and disabled children are some three times more likely to experience abuse.
  • A large scale piece of research by Sullivan & Knutson 2000, USA, found that disabled children were 3.4 times more likely to be abused than non‐disabled children.
  • In addition a number of recent surveys in the UK have highlighted the high levels of bullying of deaf and disabled children (Mencap 2007).

It appears that few organisations have information relating to the number of deaf and disabled participants that they have. This gives rise to concerns as to whether the increased vulnerability of deaf and disabled children and their support needs are being considered.
As a consequence the CPSU has made promoting the inclusion and safeguarding of deaf and disabled children one of its key themes for 2011‐2012.


Increased Vulnerability

Some of the factors that make deaf and disabled children additionally vulnerable to abuse are:

  • dependency on others to help with care need
  • an impaired capacity to resist, avoid or understand abuse; and language and communication difficulties.

It is also important for sports organisations to become more aware of disability people– particularly in terms of understanding that the term ‘disabled’ covers many different degrees of needs and support. The needs of someone who is a wheelchair user are likely to be very different from those of a person with a learning disability.

Providing a safe environment for deaf and disabled children to participate in sport does not require radical changes to existing policies and procedures but an understanding of what makes a disabled child additionally vulnerable and the adoption of appropriate safeguards to mitigate these.

It is essential that appropriate training and support for volunteers and staff is provided in order to ensure that clubs are able to develop a culture of inclusivity where the needs and additional vulnerability of disabled children are addressed.

Next Steps

Sports organisations should:

  • Consider their training needs in this area and enter into discussion with the CPSU and its colleagues through the Call to Action – Skills and Knowledge group so that appropriate learning resources can be developed
  • Develop tools for recording information about the number of disabled participants, the nature of their impairment and what particular or additional support needs they may have and how these have been addressed. Tools which can support this include:

1. CPSU briefing visit Safeguarding deaf and disabled children and young people.
2. Sport England equality and diversity guidance and Sport England Equality scheme PDF for further information or downloads visit Sport England’s website.
3. Parasport club finder is a tool to help you find high quality sports clubs for children and young people with a disability, for further information visit Parasport club finder.
4. Engaging disabled people in sport resource‐ English Federation of Disability Sport has this available to download on

  • Make sure that child protection policies make specific reference to the increased vulnerability of deaf and disabled children
  • Share progress and good practice with the CPSU for wider dissemination
  • Involving deaf and disabled children & young people in the development of good practice guidelines to support integration

NB: Many deaf young people and adults identify as being deaf rather than as being disabled. The NSPCC strategy to 2016 is informed by the views of deaf as well as disabled young people and in recognition of deaf young people’s self identity, the term deaf and disabled will generally be used. (Taken from First Stop – Disabled Children by David Miller 4.4.2011)


Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU), 2011