Warwickshire Police have shown their support for the campaign to end disability hate crime by setting up a scheme to provide 'safe places' for people with learning disabilities who feel vulnerable in their communities. The Safe Places scheme, launched to coincide with Learning Disability Week [18-24 June], gives vulnerable people a safe haven to go to if they feel unsafe in their community. It has been supported by a raft of major organisations including Tesco, Boots and Warwickshire County Council. The national theme for Learning Disability Week is to put an end to disability hate crime. Prejudice and hostility due to a person's disability prevent many people from going out in their communities and playing a part in local life, with almost 60% of disabled people saying 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. [caption id="attachment_2311" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Photo LtoR: John McMahon, owner of Within Reach cafe, a 'Safer Place' in Warwick; Philip Hetherington, regional partnership officer for Mencap; Janine Wheatley, co chair of Warwickshire Learning Disability Partnership Board; Cllr Richard Hobbs; Cllr Izzi Seccombe; service user Richard Barlow and chief inspector Mike Slemensek"][/caption] Warwickshire is one of 34 forces nationwide that 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. Councillor Izzi Seccombe, Warwickshire's portfolio holder for adult social care, said: "For too long vulnerable people have been prevented from doing the everyday things we take for granted for fear of being harassed, bullied or attacked. By joining forces with the whole community and showing the Safe Place symbol in as many places as possible we can give people confidence to lead fulfilled lives in their communities." Shops and businesses taking part in the scheme will display the Safe Place badge in their window, which means they can provide support and report any abuse, as well as giving some extra help if people feel uncomfortable carrying out their day-to-day activities. With Mencap warning that that recent progress on tackling disability hate crime could be undone if new police and crime commissioners do not make it a priority, candidates will this week face questions from disabled people and their families at events organised by disability campaigners. Warwickshire Police's chief inspector Mike Slemensek added: "The introduction of Safe Places is a very important partnership initiative which will provide more protection and support to people who are victims of disability-related hate crime and harassment. It comes at exactly the right time to fit in with the work Warwickshire Police is doing to encourage people to report hate crime, through our Response and Engagement against Crimes of Hate (REACH) campaign". To get involved in the Safe Place scheme or to find out more please visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk/safeplaces For more information on the Stand By Me campaign visit www.mencap.org.uk/campaigns/take-action/stand-me   A version of this article also appears on our sister site www.policingtoday.co.uk