Last month disability organisations warned that disability hate crimes were “disappearing” from adult protection inquiries. Anabel Unity Sale and Andrew Mickel spoke to four organisations that help disabled people and others tackle disability hate crime
Raising awareness among teenagers
Learning disability charity United Response ran its UR on Board project to raise awareness among young people about the impact of bullying on people with learning disabilities. The project was created by Ali Bishop, United Response business development manager in Greater Manchester, after hearing that people with learning disabilities were being called names or picked on when travelling.
She surveyed people with learning disabilities in Trafford and found one in five had been bullied on public transport. Of these, 56% said teenagers were the perpetrators and 38% blamed younger children.
Bishop approached Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority for funding for a training programme and was awarded a £40,000 grant for UR on Board. This
paid for eight people with learning disabilities to deliver training sessions to 300 pupils in four secondary schools in Trafford, Greater Manchester between June 2007 and June 2008.
“They told their stories to the students through presentations, discussions and short films, what happened to them when they were bullied and how they felt,” says Bishop.
Evaluations completed by pupils after each session revealed one-third said they would stand up for a person with learning disabilities if they saw them being bullied or harassed.
Helping people with disabilities challenge hate crime
When Jane Dellow, an independent learning disabilities consultant, started looking in 1997 at how to support people with learning disabilities who experience hate crime, few recognised it as a problem.
“People with learning disabilities accepted crime or harassment; they thought it was part of their lot,” she says.
She began work on the issue after a colleague with learning disabilities was attacked and hospitalised and she discovered verbal and physical abuse was also going on locally.
Through People in Partnership (PIP), a partnership of local statutory and voluntary organisations including Hertfordshire Police, Hertfordshire Council and local
people with learning disabilities, Dellow helped devise a series of workshops to inform and share good practice about how people with learning disabilities can respond to verbal abuse, bullying and harassment.
In 2003, a £30,000 grant from the police and council enabled PIP to develop its work into a pack for use across the county. The pack was designed with and for people with learning disabilities. It uses easy words, pictures and a CD to explain their rights and the laws on disabilities and offers personal safety tools and information to help crime reporting. It also contains a disability hate crime reporting form.
Easier ways to report hate crime
It has become increasingly common for victims of disability hate crime to be able to report what has happened to them at places other than police stations, such as housing associations.
But Lewis Turner, hate crimes officer at Wyre Council in Lancashire, says: “The original idea that people would come flooding in hasn’t happened.”
Turner has broadened the number of sites in the borough where people can report hate crime. He has also trained people most in contact with disabled people, such as benefits advisers and those working in housing standards, to spot the signs of a hate crime.
“If disabled people are already going to an agency then they could report it there, and we’ve now trained the people in those agencies to be pro-active.”
There was a rise in the reported level of disability hate crime in the borough of 57% in the first year of the project.
Training pack for cross-agency working
There is often a gap between the agencies that work with disabled people and those responsible for local policing, so a group of organisations has devised a training pack and good practice guide to help agencies work together.
Samantha Clark, director of Inclusion North, which supports learning disability partnership boards (LDPBs) and helped to create the Learning Together pack, says: “One of the themes is do this with someone. The good practice guide is full of advice, such as on how to create more accessible reporting with easier forms, staff training, and examples of good victim support.”
The project was given about £27,000 from the Home Office’s Victim’s Fund, and a copy of the training pack was sent to every LDPB and crime and disorder reduction partnership in the country, as well as every advocacy group they could find.
This article appeared in the 26th February issue under the headline “Alert to the danger signs”