More and more people with learning disabilities are moving from institutional care into homes in the community. Many are enjoying new freedoms but others are experiencing problems: violence, bullying and exploitation. A handful of recent high-profile murders of people with learning disabilities this year have highlighted the extent of abuse some people are subjected to.
If you have learning disabilities and are being bullied there are things you can do to make it stop and there are organisations that can help you (see below). Or if you are working with people with learning disabilities and want to know more about what action you can take there are some examples around the country of organisations working effectively together to fight bullying and exploitation.
Charity Mencap has done a lot of work on bullying.
Know your legal rights
Under section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, people who target others because of their disability, race, colour, ethnic origin, nationality, identity or sexual orientation will receive an increased sentence
Hate crime against people with learning disabilities is cited as a priority issue to be tackled in the Learning Disability Task Force annual report 2006-2007.
In June 2007, the National Forum of People with People with Learning Difficulties handed over a petition signed by more than 1,000 people to Vernon Coaker, then home office minister responsible for hate crime, as part of its Stamp out Hate Crime campaign.
The Valuing People Support Team
The Valuing People Support Team is offering grants of £2,000 to do work to stop hate crime or help victims of hate crime
The PIP pack was runner-up for a Home Office National Justice Award in November 2006.
Development manager Jane Dellow says people who are being bullied should tell someone, anyone. If they contact the police they should make it known that they believe the bullying is motivated by the fact they have a disability because the police will treat their complaint as a hate crime.
East Sussex Council and partners
Sue Booker is a practice manager at East Sussex Council. She believes the move towards independent living has been a mixed blessing for some people with a learning disability. “For many people it was the first time they had their own front door key. But we have come across cases where people did not want to go to their job or took to walking miles a day because they no longer wanted to get the bus to work after being bullied by children going to and from school.”
They put together a pack working with groups including the police, local advocacy services and people with learning disabilities.
Lots of service users do not read or write so they devised a way of reporting bullying via pictures and service users are encouraged to have a copy of the pack in their home. One man was able to report a crime by depicting what had happened to him – he was able to include the number plate of a car driven by the offender and police made an arrest.
Part of the work they do is around educating people with learning disabilities about what constitutes inappropriate behaviour. For example, one person they dealt with had found themselves on the receiving end of aggressive behaviour after they hugged a person in a nightclub. The team has also done some work with schools, involving a schools liaison officer and an antisocial behaviour order was served on someone as a result. Booker says a lot can be done to raise awareness among young people about people with learning disabilities.
“If we’re not careful we will get people who want to move back into residential care. They have been told that living in the community is wonderful but many are finding it’s not such a welcoming world,” says Booker.