Learning disability charity Mencap has warned that recent progress on tackling disability hate crime could be undone if new police and crime commissioners (PCCs) do not make it a priority for their police forces.

PCCs will replace police authorities later this year. They will be directly elected by the public with a brief to hold the local force to account and to determine local policing priorities in consultation with chief constables.

During Learning Disability Week (June 18-24), PCC candidates across England and Wales will face questions from disabled people and their families at hustings events organised by disability campaigners. At these events, people with disabilities will demand that new police and crime plans include a commitment to tackling disability hate crime and candidates will be encouraged to make a statement on how they intend to stand by people with a learning disability, ahead of public elections in November. Almost 60% of disabled people say that they have been a victim of hostility or violence, according to a survey by Scope in 2011.

However, police forces across the UK have worked to improve the way that they support victims of hate crime, and in the past four years, prosecutions and convictions have risen steadily. Additionally, 34 police forces have signed up to Mencap’s ‘Stand by me police’ promise and formally committed to supporting people with a learning disability and increasing hate crime convictions. But reporting of disability hate crime is still believed to represent just a fraction of actual incidents. Mencap is concerned that momentum will be lost if PCCs do not make disability hate crime a priority for their forces.

“Hate crime and harassment are unfortunately a daily reality for many people with a learning disability, and when hate crime takes hold, it can have serious and even fatal consequences,” said Mark Goldring, chief executive of Mencap. “This year will see huge changes in the way that police forces set their priorities and are held to account. Mencap is calling on police and crime commissioners across England and Wales to stand by people with a learning disability and commit to tackling disability hate crime as a priority, so that we don’t reverse the positive progress that has been made in recent years.”