DeafKidz International Head of Programmes, Stuart Harrison, and criminal justice/policing adviser Emma Gilbert, of the UK Police Link Officer for the Deaf scheme, presented the case for inclusive child rights and child protection provision at ISPCAN’s 10th Asia Pacific Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect. Highlighting the learning from our emerging work in South Africa and our partnerships with both Child Helpline International and Childline South Africa, Stuart and Emma, presented on the challenges of ensuring D/deaf children and young people are safeguarded.
With the sexual abuse of D/deaf children a global outrage, Stuart and Emma urged the delegates to look at their own organisations and work to see how the rights, protection, communication and linguistic needs of D/deaf children and young people are addressed. And if not, what steps should be undertaken to ensure proper communication support and, thereby, access. As always, the lack of understanding and awareness of the needs of D/deaf children in safeguarding, policing and criminal justice settings was both staggering and worrying. And in some cases, their specialist needs dismissed with the wave of a hand. We’re not having that.
In low resource settings, poor maternal and neonatal care leads to high levels of Deafness, yet few recognise the real numbers – perhaps as many as two in ten infants / children. All of which suggest that high numbers of D/deaf children experience subsequent neglect and abuse requiring a safeguarding intervention. We can say that, because we know it happens; the evidence is there – D/deafness leads to abandonment, vulnerability and abuse. Yet safeguarding, policing and criminal justice professionals don’t know what to do – how to ensure a victim of abuse is afforded appropriate communication support during interview, how to use sign language interpreters in court settings and more. So we’ll keep going at this, till we get matters addressed and the millions of D/deaf children around the world get the just support they require.
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