Children with disabilities and learning difficulties inside the city “expect” to be bullied during their school life.
The claim, though distressing, comes as new bullying statistics reveal disabled children living within the poorest parts of Brighton and Hove – particularly people with autism and learning difficulties – suffer most with bullying.
The figures, gathered by Brighton-based children’s disability charity Amaze, quizzed nearly 750 families of kids on Brighton and Hove City Council’s disability register about their experiences bullying.
Children living within the council wards of Moulsecoomb and Bevendean, and East Brighton – two of probably the most deprived areas of Brighton and Hove – accounted for 23.2% of bullied children between them.
Children in affluent Central Hove, Regency and Brunswick and Adelaide covered just 1.7% between them.
Rachel Travers, CEO of Amaze, said a link between poverty and child disability increased the possibility of a disabled child living in East Brighton or Moulsecoomb and Bevendean.
She added: “You then ought to add within the increased likelihood of a disabled child experiencing bullying.
“From a stats perspective, East Brighton and Moulsecoomb and Bevendean have two important factors in play.
“The first is that there are more children in those areas generally.
Consistent with the most recent Census, these two wards account for 14.3% of the city’s young population.
“Then there’s more family housing, more social housing and less houses of multiple occupancy.”
The national problem of childhood bullying – and never just involving people with disabilities – was discussed last week by councillors at a bullying scrutiny panel at Hove Town Hall.
Cllr Ruth Buckley, who chaired the panel, described bullying as a “national problem of serious concern to the council,” but stressed she felt the authority was “ahead of the sport in tackling it locally,” though admitted there has been more to do.
Janet Pool, Amaze’s representative on the scrutiny panel, said when it came to children with disabilities, they and their families expected bullying.
Speaking on the meeting last Wednesday she said: “For them, it’s kind of only a section of life, that’s very distressing.
“But it’s a deal almost. You visit secondary school, you’re at the autistic spectrum, you will have a physical difference – it’s almost an expectation within families that your child can be targeted more. It could be done in very subtle ways.
“For example when everyone else has scarpered and made sure whatever they’ve done isn’t at the CCTV in their secondary school, that’s when children with additional needs and social communication problems could be the last man standing.
“They’re fairly often installation because they’re not very subtle.
The figures really speak for themselves.”
The effects of not being “subtle” can stretch far beyond the thought of a kid being the “last one standing,” however.
Paul Goodwin, of Brighton’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), told councillors last week that bullying could contribute to poor mental health and mental health disorders in all children – and never just people with a disability.
He said: “Being bullied isn’t a mental health condition – it’s a sequence of events that could result in increased chance of a mental sickness or disorder developing.
“Initially we’d viewbeing bullied as causing acute emotional distress.
“We all wade through a period of acute emotional distress at sometime in our lives, like through bereavement for instance, but a number of us, if we’ve a running series of events of stress, can develop a mental illness from it.
“And if that continues – a mental health disorder can develop.
“That said, it’s hard to equate direct connection.”
When asked by councillors what had to be done to avoid bullying, Mr Goodwin said: “I think working with the perpetrators is a key thing.
“Working with victims is solely half the difficulty or a 3rd of the issue.
“My experience of working with perpetrators of domestic violence is it is best to stop that behaviour to stop more victims.
“It’s a protracted-term problem take a long time but i feel working with the perpetrators is prime.”
Alison Nuttall, Children and Young People’s Strategic Commissioner at CAMHS, suggested children were reluctant to report bullying at college as they might feel “stigmatised” being seen coming out and in of a “certain room” – comparable to a school’s counselling room.
She said: “They won’t desire to be seen going into that area as it could incorrectly mean there’s something wrong with them. There’s sensitivity around it with children.”
Children’s bullying charity Safety Net, who also sent representatives to the council’s scrutiny panel, has worked with schools and community groups across Brighton and Hove, helping out for the last 17 years.
In a report published for the council, the charity revealed schools were struggling in finding the time to fill in forms to offer feedback to the charity on their antibullying measures.
This, consistent with Den McCartney from Safety Net, meant the charity’s work may be installed jeopardy because the information was utilized in ongoing funding applications.
She said: “It isn’t something i believe schools deliberately block.
“We provide the services free of charge after which say give us information and it involves a great number of chasing and requests within the first place.
“If they do, it helps secure funding for projects similar to playground services.
“Short term work akin to the Playground Buddies system needs very specific evaluation and it really is a further thing to invite of them.
“They may have moved onto other parts in their strategy by then.
“As component of the report we got really positive quotes at the impact on schools.
“For us because we’re currently at the look-out to sustain our work, that kind of feedback is like gold dust.
“If people still want this service at no cost to be able to keep that going, we need to have information from schools.
“It is actually a challenge for us.”
Despite the obvious doom and gloom, recommendations to enhance the degrees of bullying in schools might possibly be outlined as early as November – giving both parents and youngsters peace of mind for the recent school term.
Councillor Buckley, chair of the bullying scrutiny panel, said the council took the initiative of installing a scrutiny investigation to peer what improvements can be made.
She added: “We will publish our report in November.
“Our own survey data shows that kids who need extra help also get more bullying so this can be a vital area to be worked on.
“One of an important lessons parents and schools will ever teach is that such bullying is completely unacceptable. “ A council spokesman added: “The scrutiny panel took advice from a number one expert at the subject, Professor Robin Banerjee, so it’s a subject matter we take extremely seriously.
“It’s also important to indicate that the govt has handed responsibility for tackling bullying to colleges directly.
“However as an education authority we remain supportive on the subject of offering advice and expertise.“ It’s also the case that some schools, BACA and the previous Whitehawk Primary included, in East Brighton, aren’t any longer under council control.”