Discrimination against disabled children still widespread, study finds

Schools and councils need to do more to address the discrimination disabled children continue to face despite positive steps taken by the last government, research has found.

Study found that too often bullying and discrimination were seen as inevitable for disabled children. Image: NTI

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) study, Does Every Child Matter, Post Blair?, found that disabled children continue to face discrimination, bullying and access problems, even after policies under the previous government such as Aiming Higher for Disabled Children.

Spanning 18 months, the study included interviews with disabled children, their families and children’s professionals as well as observations of everyday life for young people with disabilities.

It found that too often bullying by other children and discrimination were seen as inevitable for disabled children. Lack of transport, access and community groups misunderstanding health and safety laws continue to exclude many disabled children from school, leisure and community activities, the study also found.

In one of the worst examples parents of non-disabled children at a school petitioned to exclude a disabled child.

Another girl reported that she had been told by her Brownie pack that her mother had to accompany her for health and safety reasons. The girl ignored these demands and attended on her own.

Research authors Professor Dan Goodley and Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole said: “Kids seem to enjoy challenging people’s expectations about their limitations.”

They added: “The biggest barriers they meet are the attitudes of other people and widespread forms of institutional discrimination.”

“Disabled children are seldom allowed to play and act like other children because of concerns about their ‘leaky and unruly’ bodies.”

They lamented that the Aiming High for Disabled Children policy agenda to enable children to be ‘healthy’, ‘stay safe’, ‘enjoy and achieve’, ‘make a positive contribution’ and ‘achieve economic wellbeing’ was being ignored too often by schools and community groups.

The report calls for a widespread change in attitude and for politicians to prioritise breaking down the barriers children with disabilities continue to face.


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