Think piece - supporting and working with families with children who have complex needs

Hands clasped on table

Supporting and working with families who have children with additional needs comes with many rewards and benefits. We know that some children who have additional needs are at an increased risk of ‘unmet needs, abuse and/or neglect’.

For all professionals who work with children and families, there are sometimes Barriers or potential ‘Red Flags’ that ALL practitioners should be aware of. The Neglect Toolkit identifies ‘Signs of neglect’ and how to ‘Look out for Neglect’ but we should be aware of how this might present in a family where children have complex needs, considering the nuances of neglect.

'Disabled children are more dependent than other children on their parents and carers for their day-to-day personal care; for helping them access services that they need to ensure that their health needs are met; and for ensuring that they are living in a safe environment. The impact of neglect on disabled children is therefore significant. This is not always recognised in time.'

Ofsted thematic inspection August 2012

This statement identifies the potential for disabled children to be neglected, given the reliance some children have on their parents to meet their care needs.

Disabled children may also be at increased risk due to communication difficulties, sympathy for carers affecting professional judgement and perceptions that the needs of a disabled child should be viewed differently from other children.

The family and environmental factors are no less relevant for disabled children and therefore professionals working with disabled children or children with complex needs should always be prepared to have candid discussions when concerns begin to emerge about the care of a child.

Professional curiosity SHOW

Over optimism (over sympathising) SHOW

Critical reflection approach SHOW

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary
NHS Hampshire and Isle of Wight
Southampton City Council