Councils’ record in tackling the harassment of disabled people will come under scrutiny in a major inquiry launched by the Equality and Human Rights Commission today.
The commission is asking social workers, the public and other staff to submit evidence to the inquiry about the effectiveness of harassment prevention measures and how councils have handled instances of disability harassment.
It will also quiz councils on the policies and procedures they have in place to tackle disability harassment. Those authorities not found to be fulfilling their legal duty to promote equality for disabled people, which includes working to eliminate harassment, will face legal action from the commission.
The inquiry follows last year’s inquest into the deaths of Fiona Pilkington and her disabled daughter Francecca Hardwick. Pilkington killed them both following years of harassment and a serious case review exposed weaknesses across public bodies in working together to tackle harassment.
Mike Smith, lead commissioner for the inquiry, said: “By highlighting the failures as well as learning from examples of good practice, the commission’s inquiry will help public bodies try to ensure that future tragedies are prevented and transform the way that the people of Britain value and respect disabled people.”
Esther Foreman, campaigns and policy manager at Mencap, said: “We want to see this put disability hate crime further up the agenda and have it taken seriously like homophobia or race hate crime.”
The deadline for the submission of evidence to the inquiry is 10 September.
Meanwhile, the commission is being asked to make a 15% cut to its budget by the government, which means it will need to slash £7m from its spending this year.
The budget for its disability harassment inquiry will not be directly affected by the cuts but Neil Kinghan, director general of the commission, said: “The commission has brought in measures including a freeze in spending on advertising, marketing, consultancies and freezing recruitment apart from important frontline and business critical areas. We are also significantly cutting the number of temporary staff.”