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Disability Crime: “You should have that kid put down"

This week, the BBC ran a news item telling us that hate crime towards children with additional needs has risen. The figures had risen by 101% for all disability hate crime, but the BBC said that it was much higher for children.

As someone who works with and is in contact with many families who have children with additional needs, I know the figures are rising. I hear many stories of abuse yelled in the street and trolls doing their thing on the internet. Comments such as “You should have that kid put down” or, "why didn’t you kill ‘it’ at birth?”

I also hear many stories of physical bullying of both the child and their families.

With reported child abuse also on the rise, we could easily take that one step further and say it must have increased for children with additional needs as they are known to be at much greater risk - thought to be as much as three times more likely to be abused.

Being an additional needs parent in 2017 is hard. It has always been hard, but with cuts in services and support, more hate crime, plus difficulty in getting into an appropriate school- nothing seems to be improving. Add this to the figures given by ‘Contact a Family’, who say families of children who have additional needs are more likely to live in poverty, to have family breakdown and have ill health due to the work load.

You see, whilst these parents are dealing with so much, many churches are turning them away from the one place on this earth that should be safe.

In situations like this you usually see the church rise up and take action, and in some small sections of the church they have - and done it well. But in the majority, the church has been piercingly silent.

You see, whilst these parents are dealing with so much, many churches are turning them away from the one place on this earth that should be safe.

Parents have told me they have been asked to find a church more appropriate to their needs.

Others have been told their child cannot attend the children’s work because they are a health and safety risk. In this case, the assumption was that a child with Down’s syndrome couldn’t use scissors safely, when in reality they could use them better than most children.

I’ve even spoken to parents who were told they were welcome, but their child was not.

Some parents tell me they have left their church because it was just too hard to be there. Many reasons being because no one understood or offered help, some because they were ignored or ostracised and lastly, when they left, no one came to check up on them.

All over this country children and families are leaving the church, not because they have lost their faith, but because they feel they are not welcome.

No, this isn’t a hate crime. But when a people who should be known for their love turn their back on hurting families, it compounds the pain and hurt already there.

In Mark 10:13-16 we see Jesus bless the children. Take these verses back to the original language and you will see the meaning is much stronger - Jesus ‘fervently’ blessed them. This was no incidental warm and fuzzy thing; it was a deliberate and profound act. There is no stipulation as to how healthy or able the children were, just that Jesus blessed them, fervently - and told the disciples off for trying to turn them and their parents away!

It breaks my heart to see the church making the same mistake as the disciples; turning children and their families away. If we follow Jesus’ example, surely we should be welcoming them and blessing them ‘fervently’.

5 ways to help families and parents feel welcome

1. If you have a family in your church who have children with additional needs - talk to them, find out what they and their children need.

2. Get some training - there are people out there who will help you with this.

3. Appoint a champion who will advocate and look for ways to support the children in the life of the church, and help them grow spiritually.

4. Stop seeing the problem first. Instead see the child, and their place in God’s family. Catch the vision for all God can do in their lives.

5. Pray, and ask the family what they need prayer for.

 

Written by Kay Morgan-Gurr

Chair of Children Matter, Co-founder of the Additional Needs Alliance, part of the Evangelical Alliance Council. Blog: “Pondering Platypus”  kaymorgangurr.com

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