Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

New website and guidance launched to help combat cruelty against people with learning disabilities

abuseNew resources designed to help prevent and manage cruelty, harassment and abuse against people with learning disabilities have been launched.

Action Against Cruelty, developed by social researchers Lemos and Crane, is a new website and online network that brings together multi-agency guidance on all aspects of the problem from definitions, detection, prevention and safeguarding to criminal and civil proceedings and aftercare, as well as under-reporting, communication with victims and perpetrators and supportive communities.

The resource builds on Lemos and Crane’s report Loneliness and Cruelty that revealed that 93% of adults with learning disabilities had been victim of targeted cruelty, harassment or abuse. It also found that verbal abuse and harassment were the most commonly experienced types of cruelty and neighbours, local residents and schoolchildren the most common perpetrators.

Yet the majority of incidents go unreported. Victims feel their experience may not be taken seriously by police and public services or are unsure as to whether it warrants reporting at all. Many also describe feeling intimidated and excluded by inaccessible reporting structures and protocol. This has serious impacts on their lives, such as diminishing their independence, enjoyment and sense of safety.

The Action Against Cruelty site includes research reports, templates and more than a 100 examples of good practice. The site reflects the whole system of adult social care, civil action and criminal justice and how agencies interact and communicate with one another.

It also includes an EasyRead microsite for people with learning disabilities on good and bad relationships, crime and cruelty, reporting incidents and supporting friends through the experience, as well as how to get information, services and guidance. The microsite promotes confidence, including in the reporting process and dealing with the police. There are also EasyRead resources on topics such as the CPS, managing money and healthy sex and relationships.

Action Against Cruelty guidance includes:

The common experiences of adults with learning disabilities and how they feel about them

How different forms of cruelty can be identified early, and what immediate action should be taken

The responsibilities and good practice requirements for effective safeguarding procedures

Effective communication with victims and suspected perpetrators of harassment, cruelty and abuse

 How reporting can be promoted and reporting practice improved

Innovative practice that is promoting independence, safety and healthy relationships for people with learning disabilities.

“It is shocking that, if you have a learning disability and live in the community you are almost certain to be the victim of harassment, abuse or cruelty. Adult social care, supported housing, police, prosecutors and regulators need to do much more. I hope the Action Against Cruelty website and network represents the beginning of a sea change in confidence and security for people with learning disabilities,” said Gerard Lemos from Lemos and Crane.

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