Government's number one priority protecting kids: McLucas

A PAPER revealing case studies of how disabled Australian children have been abused and neglected was released by Children with Disability on Tuesday.

The discussion paper aims to spark a national discussion of how to tackle the social problems associated with protecting young people with a disability.

In particular, it revealed one case of the principal of a kindergarten at a loss of what to do with a young boy with autism, locking the boy in a storage cupboard to ensure other students were not interrupted.

While such cases were the extreme, the paper also reveals a dire lack of information about abuse of children with a disability within Australian society.

Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities, Senator Jan McLucas, said the report would help the government and the community sector better understand the causes, experience and appropriate response to children with disabilities.

"People with disability are more vulnerable to violence, exploitation and neglect - and children with disability even more so," she said.

"Among this report's findings is that inclusivity and accessibility are critical factors in making children with disability safe.

"This underscores just how important the Australian Government's work is in removing barriers for people with disability."

The report highlighted an often inadequate recognition of abuse of children with disabilities, a lack of reporting abuse and neglect, and a "concerning gap in research on these issues".

"Research evidence about abuse and neglect in education environments is particularly scant, and the empirical studies focus primarily on bullying and harassment," the report reads.

While the Federal Government has done much to improve problems for children with disabilities in recent years, including starting a new 10 year National Disability Strategy, the report shows more needs to be done.

In a section titled "What do we need?", the report recommends actions to better recognise and respect children with disabilities; ensure they have a voice and are not socially isolated, and a range of "formal supports", which could involve new laws to protect the such young people.

"Resources, attention and energy is put to prevention at the whole community level, for all children and young people with disability, and in responding better to those who experience harm," the report recommends.

Senator McLucas said the government's "number one priority" was the protection of children.

"It is the responsibility of all governments and the sector to do everything possible to make sure all children have the safe and healthy childhood they deserve."

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