A new campaign has been launched that aims to tackle the problem of disability hate crime, especially crimes against people with learning disabilities or autism.
Most recent Home Office statistics show a 25% year-on-year rise in reported disability hate crime, with 2,500 reported in 2014/15. However, estimates from the Crime Survey of England and Wales put the real figure closer to 70,000 hates crimes per year.
The campaign, called ‘I’m with Sam’ and led by not-for-profit service provider Dimensions, is backed by major partners including all major learning disability and autism self-advocacy organisations, speaking with a single voice and providing a practical blueprint for change comprising 8 principal goals. ‘I’m with Sam’ launch coincides with Hate Crime Awareness Week (10-14 October).
In a specially-compiled survey of more than 320 members of the learning disabilities and autism community, 73% of respondents said they had experienced hate crime, with 53% adding they had experienced it in the past 12 months.
The campaign is calling for:
• Separate disability hate statistics into learning disability/autism, and other disabilities
• Change the law to make disability hate a crime online
• The Department of Education to adapt resources to better support all primary and secondary schools with positive messages around difference
• Manufacturers to incorporate greater learning disability sensitivity into toys, games and other children’s entertainment
• The Department of Health to develop simple guidance to help families and support workers identify and manage cases of hate crime
• The Crown Prosecution Service to improve investigation protocols within the criminal justice system in situations where there is a learning disabled victim
• The Home Office to improve resources and training for police officers and others to help them when receiving a report of hate crime from a person with a learning disability or autism, including funding self-advocates to provide specialist victim support.
• Together, we and our campaign partners will evaluate the effectiveness of new coercive behaviour legislation on people with learning disabilities or autism, leading to specific change recommendations and/or a green paper recommendation on stronger legislation to protect vulnerable people from mate crime.
In the foreword to the campaign document, Steve Scown, chief executive of Dimensions, said: “Hate crime robs people of their confidence, their independence and sometimes, their lives. Despite the work that has taken place since the tragic deaths of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter seven years ago, new research conducted by Dimensions shows no let-up in the daily abuse faced by people with learning disabilities and autism. For people without a learning disability or autism, the daily horror of this can be hard to imagine.”
Scown added that everyone has a part to play in the campaign. “Politicians and civil servants, mums and dads, teachers, police and care professionals have critical roles. But everyone can help give this campaign momentum.”
Follow the hashtag #ImwithSam on Twitter for more updates