The vast majority of people with learning disabilities have experienced some form of bullying or abuse because of their disability, a survey has found.

Just 6% of about 800 respondents to a survey by the National Autistic Society (NAS) said they had not experienced any bullying or abuse. But 81% of respondents said they had experienced verbal abuse, while 47% reported that they have been victims of a physical assault.

In addition:

• 28% of respondents had experienced exploitation, theft or fraud
• 28% had possessions or property damaged
• 24% had been victims of cyber bullying 
• 65% of respondents have experienced hate crime more than 10 times.

The survey also found that nearly three-quarters of people (73%) didn’t report the crime to police. However, of those that did, 54% said it wasn’t recorded as a hate crime and 40% said the police did not act on their report.

In addition, 62% said they did not think that the police had taken their disability into account

Alarming number experiencing bullying

Responding to the findings, Mark Lever, chief executive of the NAS, said: “Disability hate crime has no place in 21st century Britain, but these figures reveal an alarming number of people living with autism in the UK have suffered bullying, exploitation and harassment. This has to stop.

“It is both shocking and sickening that people with autism become targets of crime because of their disability, but unfortunately due to the social difficulties people with autism experience it can leave them vulnerable to being taken advantage of by unscrupulous individuals.

“It is vital that disability hate crimes are punished with the same severity as other hate crimes.

“People with autism have the same rights as the rest of society to lead lives free from fear and violence.

“As the Government reviews the adult autism strategy for England this year, the NAS will be calling for them to meet commitments on training for those working in the criminal justice system. We are also working across the other nations to ensure that there is appropriate training among criminal justice professionals.”