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Children with learning disabilities at higher risk of sexual exploitation

Release Date: 10 Sep 2015

New research reveals that children with learning disabilities are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation than other children, and face additional barriers to protection and to receiving support.

This issue is often hidden as there is limited awareness that young people with learning disabilities are sexually exploited.

A new report, ‘Unprotected, Overprotected’, reveals that significant numbers of children with learning disabilities are not being adequately protected from sexual exploitation because of the false perception that they do not need sex and relationships education or accessible information about how to keep safe online and in the community.

The research also reveals that children with learning disabilities are not being adequately protected due to a worrying lack of specialist services and a failure to implement existing national and local policies.

The report – which was commissioned by Comic Relief and undertaken by Barnardo’s, The Children’s Society, British Institute of Learning Disabilities, Paradigm Research and Coventry University – calls on governments in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to ensure that accessible and relevant sex and relationship education is made available to children and young people with learning disabilities.

The research highlights the need for more training for professionals and for services to work together to better prevent, identify and provide effective support for these children. Support for parents and raising awareness in the community is also crucial to making sure that children with learning disabilities are kept safe from sexual exploitation.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said:

No one wants to believe a child with learning disabilities could ever be exploited in this way, but it is happening all over the UK.

A lack of awareness of the needs of these vulnerable children is playing into the hands of perpetrators of sexual exploitation.

Professionals working with children must get training to recognise the risks faced by children with learning disabilities and help them to stay safe."

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