The government’s Hate Crime Action Plan represents a positive step forward but does not go far enough to tackle hate crime perpetrated against those with a learning disability, the chief executive of a service provider has said.
The Action Plan, launched today [July 26], will commit the government to work to give young people and teachers the tools they need to tackle hatred and prejudice, including through a new programme to equip teachers to facilitate conversations around international events and the impact they have on communities here in the UK. The government will also work with schools on how to better report incidents of hate crime.
There will be a new assessment of the level of anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, homophobic, racist and other bullying in schools to inform further action to reduce levels of such bullying.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd also announced plans to commission Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to carry out a scoping study into forces’ understanding of (and response to) hate crime. The study will look at how police forces deal with hate crime, and will look at all strands including disability hate crime.
However, Dimensions’ chief executive, Steve Scown (pictured), has said he wants the plan to go further to protect people with a learning disability from hate crime – of which 88% have been a victim, according to research by learning disability charity Mencap.
“Hate crime robs people of their confidence, their independence and, sometimes, their lives,” Scown said. “As a support provider working with 3,500 people with learning disabilities and autism, Dimensions can be on the front line of hate crime. For our staff, the people we support and their families, hate crime is physically and emotionally destructive.”
Scown added that as work on the government’s hate crime plan develops, Dimensons hope to see the following specific changes:
• Separation of disability hate statistics into learning disability/autism, and other disabilities
• A change in the law to make disability hate a crime online. The law says that it can be an offence to stir up hatred on the grounds of race, religion or sexual orientation. Disability should be added to this
• A well-funded public awareness programme, specifically including resources to support all primary schools including special and private schools with positive messages around difference. This needs to be continued into secondary school where peer pressure can lead young people to forget the values they learn in primary education
• Wide ranging steps to make it easier, practically and emotionally, for people with learning disabilities to understand and report hate crime
• A freely available national training and support programme to help families, professional support workers and police officers identify and manage cases of hate crime
• A green paper on stronger legislation to protect vulnerable people from mate crime.
“Together, these measures will go a long way towards creating a more inclusive and accessible world for people with learning disabilities and autism,” Scown concluded.