The Children’s Society    Email : supportercare@childrenssociety.org.uk

The Children’s Society supports 48,000 children and young people every year through our specialist services and children’s centres. We believe in achieving a better childhood for every child but have a particular focus on children who have nowhere else to turn, such as young refugees, children at risk on the streets, disabled children and children in trouble with the law. We seek to give a voice to children and young people and influence policy and practice so they have a better chance in life.

The Children’s Society champions the rights of disabled children and young people. Exclusion, ignorance and disrespect mean that many disabled children are allowed little control over their own lives. We are working to ensure that all disabled children – including those who communicate without speech – have someone to listen to their needs, understand them, speak up on their behalf and ensure they are heard. And we campaign for Government and society to recognise that all disabled children have a right to be heard and do not suffer injustice in silence.

We are working to ensure that disabled children and young people with communication impairments are understood as a result of those working with them having time, skills and knowledge of different means of communication. All children can communicate, some do not use speech but can express their wishes, hopes and feelings through other means, however young people are too often denied this basic human right because those working with them do not have the time and skills to understand how they communicate.

The Children’s Society has developed particular expertise in providing independent advocacy, independent visiting and a range of participation services for disabled children and young people to ensure they are given a voice in the decisions that affect their lives and the services that they receive. We know that advocacy and participation services can provide a vital safety net for disabled children and young people including those who do not communicate verbally and those living away from their home local authority. Our highly skilled staff ensure children’s views are heard in the decisions that affect their lives thereby improving care planning.

We have also developed resources and deliver training and consultancy services for professionals and parents about how to communicate more effectively with disabled children and young people, and in particular how to include disabled children and young people in decision-making about their own lives. These resources include:

• A free web-based resource, the Disability Toolkit (www.disabilitytoolkit.org.uk). The website provides information about free and hand-made resources, practice examples, ideas and information to help work with disabled children and young people.

• An innovative website for children and young people presented entirely in symbol (widget) to enable children with learning disabilities to become informed about ongoing current affairs and also create a central forum for children to express their views and opinions (www.askability.org.uk/).

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