People with learning disabilities at high risk of hate crime yet 'invisible' in crime statistics

By agency reporter
September 16, 2018

People with learning disabilities are 'invisible' in Government crime statistics even though there is widespread evidence of people being targeted in hate crime attacks, according to a new report.

The report, A Life Without Fear?, argues that learning disability hate crime needs to be prioritised by government and better monitoring is required in order to develop more effective ways of addressing the issue.

Hate crimes targeted at people with learning disabilities included fraud, violence and taking over people’s property for the purposes of criminal activity such as drug dealing or prostitution – a practise known as cuckooing.

There are approximately 1.4 million people in Britain identified as having a learning disability and a recent national survey found that almost three in four people living with autism and learning disabilities had experienced hate crime.

The effects of these crimes on the mental health of these victims can be very serious. An additional study showed that one in four of those targeted because of their learning disabilities were more likely to report feeling suicidal as a result of their victimisation.

It is eleven years since Fiona and Frankie Pilkington took their own lives after a campaign of harassment by local teenagers who targeted Frankie’s learning disability. The incident was at the time hailed as a 'Lawrence moment' for Learning Disability.

Christine Burke, Learning Disabilities and Equalities Lead from the Mental Health Foundation said: “The results of our research in which we talked to many people with learning disabilities who experienced hate crime were shocking. We uncovered numerous reports of cases where people were deliberately targeted because they were seen as vulnerable and exploitable. This included people facing violence, threat and intimidation from a range of people including criminals, neighbours and even carers.

“We urgently need to tackle a situation in which services across the country remain patchy, un-coordinated, poorly evaluated and under-funded. Without specific Government data about hate crime affecting people with learning disabilities, this problem remains invisible.”

The report looks at examples of the different approaches to address learning disability hate crime to identify areas of good practise. Researchers identified and surveyed 159 schemes addressing learning disability hate crime across the UK - while the researchers found some examples of good practice, they also found many examples of poorly co-ordinated or sometimes non-existent service provision.

Also commenting on the report, Baroness Sheila Hollins, Professor of Psychiatry of Learning Disability said: “This project has identified examples of good practice and I suggest it’s now time for this to become common practice. There should be zero tolerance towards learning disability and autism hate crime. With the launch of this report, we are asking Government to make this a priority and to deliver an action plan that includes the reports’ recommendations along with a commitment to make change happen.”

In response to this issue, the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities has recently founded the National Forum for Learning Disabilities and Autism Hate Crime. The objectives of this groups are: to keep a watchful brief in addressing the underreporting of learning disability hate crime, reduce the barriers for victims, ensuring reasonable adjustments are available, support the work of the #I’m with Sam Campaign and  ensure that victims with a learning disability and autism are leaders in this campaign.

* More about the #I’m with Sam Campaign here

* Read the report A Life without Fear? here and the Easier to Read summary here

* Foundation for People with Learning DIsabilities https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/learning-disabilities

* The Mental Health Foundation https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/

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