Social Justice. Equality. Enterprise.

Learning Disabilities Week - Mencap Disability Hate Crime Campaign


It's Learning Disability Week

Mencap Report reveals police are failing to tackle disability hate crime

Learning Disability Week 2011 took place between Monday 20 and Sunday 26 June.

This year, Mencap is launched a three-year campaign to tackle disability hate crime, called ‘Stand by me'. Stand by me will challenge the police, criminal justice system and courts to end hate crime against people with a learning disability within a generation. It will also recognise the role of the public to stand by people with a learning disability to end violence and abuse.

During Learning Disability Week, the campaign focused on the police. Mencap has launched a report on how the police currently deal with hate crime against people with a learning disability. It highlights some examples of good police practice, but also reveals a general lack of police understanding of disability hate crime. Many police officers don't understand what learning disability is, do not treat disability hate crime as a priority and do not record disability hate crime.

Mencap is calling on all police services to sign up to its policing promise, based on recommendations contained in the report.

Mencap's chief executive, Mark Goldring, said: "The tragic deaths of Fiona Pilkington and Francesca Hardwick in 2007 and David Askew in 2010 are just two examples of where low-level harassment ignored by police was allowed to escalate into sustained abuse with fatal consequences.

"It is estimated that as many as 9 out of 10 people with a learning disability are verbally harassed or exposed to violence due to their disability. This report proves that police have not got to grips with disability hate crime, let alone crime against people with a learning disability. Too often they accept abuse as a part of their daily life. Early intervention is vital if people with disabilities are not to live in fear.”

An Ipsos MORI survey for Mencap shows that there is a strong public concern about hate crime. Half (48%) of the public believe that people with disabilities are more likely to be targets of abusive comments or aggressive behaviour than other people.

"Stand By Me" events took place around the UK throughout Learning Disability week. A reception took place in parliament on Tuesday 21 June. In Northern Ireland, criminal justice agencies and political representatives have were invited to the launch of the campaign in Belfast. And Mencap Cymru launched its own hate crime campaign with a reception at the Senedd.

Learning Disability Week continued

The Stand by me campaign was launched at a parliamentary reception

On Tuesday 21 June, Mencap held a reception at the House of Commons, to formally launch the Stand by me campaign and its police promise, which Mencap is asking police services to sign up to.

The event was attended by more than 100 people, including Care Services Minister Paul Burstow, Minister for Disabled People Maria Miller and former Home Secretary David Blunkett.

Mark Goldring, Mencap's chief executive, explained that the campaign focuses on improving justice outcomes for crimes committed against people because of their learning disability.

"The campaign is very simple – it's laying out good practice in working with people with a learning disability, so that we don't have the same situation that Fiona Pilkington faced.”

He said that the first year of the campaign will focus on working constructively with the police, before beginning work with the courts and other public bodies. Eight police services have already signed up to the police promise and Mencap is asking members of the public to ask their local service to sign up.

Goldring said that there are already many examples best practice within police services: "But we also want to work with the ones who haven't yet followed that lead and urgently need to do so.”

During the event, attendees watched a film about the horrific murder of Keith Philpott – a 36-year-old man with a learning disability. The film highlights the fact that 9 out of 10 people with a learning disability have experienced bullying or crime.

Mencap spokesperson Richard Lawrence talked about his experiences of hate crime: "The police do not seem to understand learning disability. They do not seem to understand that what happened to me was a hate crime.”

Paul Burstow also addressed the reception, saying that it is "scandalous” that so many people with a learning disability become victims of hate crime. "I was proud of the coalition when it came in, that it brought in a clear commitment to recording of all forms hate crime,” he said.

He said that it was "absolutely critical” that people should be able to live their lives free of fear and harassment or bullying, and highlighted government initiatives to prevent hate crime, including work with the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Department of Health-funded campaign against hate crime, run by the National Forum for People with Learning Disabilities

To view information on Mencap please go to: -


Events being held in Cumbria to celebrate Learning Disability Week:

Presentation on Mencap's Stand By Me Campaign at a Day Service Users Conference, Council Chamber, Kendal, Cumbria





The "Police Promise Pledge", Mencap would like every local Police Force to sign up to can be found here: -

It is possible for you to contact your local police force using the electronic form supplied to request that they sign up to the "Police Promise Pledge" here: -

A link to the "Stand By Me" Campaigns Pack in Easy Read is available at this link: -

A Case Study Guide is available detailing real life stories of peoples experiences with hate crime can be found here: -


Meanwhile the News and Star reported on Disability Hate Crime within a local context on Monday 20 June 2011:

Cumbrian police defend record after disabled hate crime survey

CUMBRIA Constabulary is among 14 forces to take part in a survey that concludes police frequently ignore hate crimes against disabled people.

The national learning-disability charity Mencap says disabled people are being left to suffer violence, harassment and abuse because police efforts to tackle hate crime are failing. It is estimates that nine-out-of-10 people with a learning disability are verbally harassed or exposed to violence because of their disability.

Its report, Don't Stand By, published on Monday 20 June to mark Learning Disability Week.

Researchers interviewed people with learning disabilities who had suffered hate crime. They reported that police officers were often rude and dismissive of their accounts.

One said: "I reported a crime to police who said ‘not you again'.”

Mencap says the forces contributing to the survey confirmed that levels of disability hate crime were higher than reported in official statistics.

Many of the forces admitted that competing demands on their resources meant hate crime was often overlooked.

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Duhig, of Cumbria Police, said the force took hate crime very seriously.

He added: "Protecting the most vulnerable in our communities is our number-one aim.

"Cumbria Constabulary works closely with key partners from local authorities, other agencies and charities to help ensure we provide the right support to victims and continue to enhance our understanding of the nature of disability hate crime.”

Mencap is launching a three-year campaign, Stand by Me, to challenge the police, the criminal-justice system and the courts to take a lead in ending hate crime.

Meanwhile, the BBC is reporting the findings of another survey, which was also published on Monday 20 June, which claims that several disabled people in Cumbria have been forced to move house because of hate crime

BBC News has also reported on the issue this week: -

Police 'fail' disabled people suffering hate crime

Disabled people are being failed by police and left to suffer abuse, a learning disability charity has said.

Mencap, launching a three-year campaign against hate crime, said there was a "general lack of police understanding of disability hate crime".

It said lack of police action meant "years of harassment... escalating into more serious incidents".

Police said they took the issue seriously, but it could be hard to recognise people's problems.

Mencap's "Stand By Me" campaign calls for a dedicated officer within each force to deal with hate crime, and for all officers to be trained to spot and tackle the crime.

It comes after Fiona Pilkington, 38, killed herself and her disabled daughter Francesca Hardwick, 18, in 2007 following 10 years of sustained abuse and harassment by a gang in Leicestershire.

In a survey of about 1,000 adults in March, the charity found that one in two people believe those with disabilities are more likely to be the targets of abusive comments or aggressive behaviour than others.

Two in three consider abusive comments such as name calling directed at someone with a disability as a hate crime.

This rises to three in four when aggressive behaviour such as pushing or hitting is involved, the survey suggested.

Mencap also highlighted the case of David Askew, 64, of Hattersley, Manchester, who collapsed and died last March.

He had been repeatedly harassed by local youths over a 10-year period, and an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) report found there were "systemic failures" in policing.

His family had called police 88 times between January 2004 and March 2010.

Mencap chief executive Mark Goldring said: "When hate crime takes hold, it stops people living their lives in the way they want to."

He said the deaths were "just two examples of where low-level harassment ignored by police was allowed to escalate into sustained abuse with fatal consequences".

He added: "Today's report proves that police have not got to grips with disability hate crime, let alone crime against people with a learning disability.

"Too often they accept abuse as a part of their daily life. Early intervention is vital if people with disabilities are not to live in fear."

'Hidden' disability

The chief constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, Stephen Otter, who is responsible for equality diversity and human rights for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said police, took the issue seriously.

He said police had begun a training scheme with the NHS to help officers, but it could be hard to recognise people's problems.

"When you're a police officer on the front line, you're dealing with people in the severest of need and sometimes what can be overlooked is their learning disability or a mental illness, because they're sometimes hidden behind all sorts of other factors.

"And I'm not trying to make an excuse for some of the things that haven't worked well, but just saying how difficult it is for officers to make a decision about the need of the individual."

A Home Office spokesman said police were recording hate crime data centrally, which would "help the police to target resources more effectively".

To view what People First Cumbria has done with regard to Learning Disability Week and also what they do to support people with learning disabilities throughout the year in Cumbria, please visit their website: -

There was coverage on Radio Cumbria about Learning Disability Week and Disability Hate Crime during Learning Disability Hate Crime.



Meanwhile a report appeared in the Guardian this week regarding the treatment of adults with learning disabilities in the private hospital sector: -

Private hospitals are no place for people with learning disabilities

The sickening abuse at Winterbourne View hospital in Bristol, revealed by Panorama, shows why such private hospitals should no longer exist, say leading figures in learning disability sector

Three weeks on, the fallout continues from BBC Panorama's exposure of sickening abuse of people with learning disabilities at the Winterbourne View private hospital near Bristol. Already it –is clear that the programme will come to be seen as a key milestone on the long journey to a civilised system of care and support for this section of society.

On Wednesday, more than 80 leading figures in the learning disability sector lend their names to a letter to the prime minister demanding an end to the placement of people in such facilities. There is, the letter says, "no place for hospitals such as Winterbourne View" and seeking to improve them will not do. "The model is wrong and does not work."

Closing all NHS long-stay hospitals for learning-disabled people in England was a historic, if tortuous, achievement. But as Panorama has shown, some people are now sent to equivalent units run by private companies which, like Winterbourne View, masquerade as short-term assessment and treatment centres. There was nothing short-term about the placements in the programme, nor was there much evidence of assessment and treatment.

There was, however, plenty of evidence of the kind of physical and verbal abuse that was all too common in NHS units such as Orchard Hill in Sutton, south London, which was the last hospital of its kind to close, in 2009, after having itself been exposed two years earlier for a regime of physical and sexual abuse of people who lived there.

The link between Winterbourne View and Orchard Hill, and with an earlier NHS scandal in Cornwall, is made in today's letter to David Cameron. The learning from past inquiries "appears to have been forgotten", say the signatories, who include former government policy advisers Rob Greig and Jim Mansell, "in part because of the continual reorganisation of public services".

The letter calls for the phasing out over two years of placements in private hospitals, with commissioners of care "prevented" from making any future such arrangements. In the meantime, it says, inspectors should ensure a "dramatic" reduction in use of restraint techniques in the hospitals and an opening-up of their culture. All people placed in the hospitals should be guaranteed independent advocacy.

Forestalling the inevitable ministerial response that these are matters for local decision-making, the signatories say: "The underpinning issue is one of the overall service and system design – hence the need for government to take a lead."

Handily, powerful evidence has emerged this week to lend weight to the letter. Publishing an evaluation of how the last Orchard Hill residents have fared since they moved to live with support in the community, Sutton council says they are happier, fitter and enjoying far greater independence, dignity and control over their lives. Oh – and their care and support costs are almost a third less.

Bear in mind that these last 39 residents of Orchard Hill were considered the most dependent and challenging people placed there. One woman had a vocabulary of only 40 words. Today, she has command of one exceeding 1,400. The evaluation, carried out by the University of Chester, found "significant" improvement in the group's quality of life within just six months of leaving the hospital. Within 18 months, it had risen by a third.

"People are making the most remarkable progress, beyond all expectations," says Colin Stears, the council's executive member for adult social services. "Returning people to their local communities by making supported living a reality has restored the human rights of people with learning disabilities, many of whom have very complex needs."

Cameron, whose disabled son died two years ago, is said to have been distressed by the Panorama programme. He should need no further persuasion to stop the worst of old-style NHS institutional care, something we thought we had left behind, being replicated by the private sector at places like Winterbourne View.

  • David Brindle is the Guardian's public services editor. He is a trustee of NDTi, a not-for-profit agency that works in the learning disability sector.

Please find the link to the original article here: -

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