Voice UK, the charity that supports learning disabled crime or abuse victims, will extend the opening hours of its helpline after receiving £50,000 as part of government plans to tackle hate crime.
The Derby-based charity will also use some of the funding to recruit volunteers to support victims of hate crime through new offices in Devon and Cornwall, the West Midlands and Greater Manchester.
Voice UK’s helpline is currently open from 9am to 5pm on most weekdays, and until 7pm on Wednesdays, but chief executive Kathryn Stone wants to offer later opening throughout the week as well as a weekend service.
Stone said: “The criminal justice system is scary for anybody but if you are a victim because of learning disabilities it’s very difficult to deal with.”
The new regional offices will set up self-help and support groups for people with learning disabilities who have been victims of hate crimes, as well as produce information in community languages appropriate to people in each area.
Hate Crime Action Plan
The Hate Crime Action Plan, published by the government this week, commits the Crown Prosecution Service to publishing a new policy on prosecuting cases involving victims and witnesses with learning disabilities and/or mental health needs by next month, with additional guidance on prosecuting disability hate crime to follow by December.
In addition, the government will consider changing schedule 21 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which determines the minimum jail term possible under mandatory life sentences, to bring disability more in line with murders aggravated by race, religion or sexual orientation.
Action plan implementation is key
Stone said many aspects of the action plan were “extremely positive”, but the plan as a whole would “only be as good as its implementation”.
“We have to give the government the opportunity to get their commitments into practice,” she added. “Where they don’t do that, organisations like us should not only be a critical friend but support practical implementation.”