Hate crime against people with learning disabilities is a “hidden problem” because of inadequate data collection, the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights heard yesterday.
But people with learning disabilities have the “major challenge” of changing centuries of negative attitudes, the committee was told.
Rob Greig, national director for learning disabilities and co-chair of the learning disabilities task force, told MPs and lords that a lack of data had led to a gap in rhetoric and reality for people with learning disabilities. For example, he said police did not always identify whether a person has a learning disability and so would not consider them a victim of a hate crime.
Greig also said there was little analysis into the financial demands of the growing population of people with learning disabilities and their changing expectations. But he emphasised: “I do not think money is a prerequisite to promoting human rights. It is more to do with attitudes, culture and respect for other people.”
Government played an important role in improving attitudes, he said, but local services held most of the responsibility in leading the changes.
Greig added the human rights legal framework was crucial in changing cultural attitudes about people with learning disabilities who have been “dehumanised” for years. In addition, mainstream services had to engage with people with learning disabilities and fully take on the Disability Equality Duty, he said.
“The importance of the human rights approach is that over time we will gradually create a culture where the attitudes, which I grew up on, will not be acceptable in modern society,” he said.
The committee intends to publish its report into the human rights of adults with learning disabilities early in 2008 to assess whether their rights are being respected in public services, the community and as partners or parents.