While some public bodies have made progress in tackling disability hate crime in the past year, overall more needs to be done, a report has found. Equality Human Rights Commission logo

The Equality & Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) report, Manifesto for Change: Progress Report 2013, found that while more is being done to prevent physical and verbal attacks on people with disabilities, other measures still need to be implemented.

The recent case of Bijan Ebrahimi highlights the need for authorities to take further steps to ensure that harassment is taken more seriously. Ebrahimi was abused for years because of his disability but did not receive appropriate protection, according to media reports. He was murdered by neighbours after falsely being accused of being a paedophile.

This report follows the EHRC’s Manifesto for Change, published last year, which made recommendations for organisations such as the police and local authorities to help prevent verbal and physical attacks on disabled people.

Since then, many of the recommendations – including better recording of incidents, improved support for victims and inclusion of disabled people in developing measures to tackle harassment – have been adopted. 

For example, the EHRC welcomed the progress made by the government in putting the victim first within the justice system. This includes changes to the way the law protects disabled people and determines sanctions against perpetrators; the adoption of  measures to tackle and manage repeat offending, and ensuring that resources are focused on those most in need. 

The EHRC also noted the development of work by authorities on reporting, recording and recognition of disability-related harassment, but was concerned to see that it remains a significant problem.  

In addition, evidence from the EHRC’s 2011 inquiry into disability-related harassment indicated that a victim of harassment may experience a number of incidents before the first call is made. It recommended that police focus on the number of incidents, rather than the call rate.  

But the EHRC was disappointed to find that no progress been made to address this, which could ensure an accurate record of the victim’s experience and provide valuable insight into the prevention of disability-related harassment.

More action needed

The EHRC is also calling for more action to build disabled people’s confidence in using public transport. It noted the British Transport Police had made significant progress and disability equality training for bus drivers was a positive move.

Further reviews will take place in two and four years’ time.

Chris Holmes, disability commissioner at the EHRC, said: “Although we were encouraged by some of the positive examples of progress by public authorities, the tragic case of Ebrahimi is a stark reminder of the fact that many disabled people are abused daily and don’t get the protection they need and are entitled to expect.

“The Commission will continue to act as a critical friend to support authorities in fully implementing our recommendations and working towards the elimination of this particularly nasty crime.”