A leading union boss has called for more to be done to recognise and stamp out disability hate crime.
Dave Prentis, general secretary of the public sector union UNISON, told his national disabled members conference that he wanted discussion of hate crime to be included in the national curriculum.
UNISON also wants criminal justice agencies and local authorities to do more to address disability hate crime, he said.
And he called for more “third party reporting centres”, which allow disabled people to ask someone else to report a hate crime on their behalf, in order to “stop disabled people living their lives in fear”.
Prentis said: “Disablism is rife within our society and attacks against disabled people are common, yet there is very little being done to record or prevent this type of hate crime.
“If crimes are perpetrated against a gay person, or someone from a minority ethnic or religious group, there can be little doubt that these would be investigated as possible hate crimes – the same attitude needs to be taken towards disability hate crimes.”
Jonathan Shaw, minister for disabled people, told the conference that there was “no place in our society for disability hate crime” and that the government was addressing the issue through its new hate crime action plan.
Paul Hardisty, a disabled communications officer with Kent police, who has himself been the victim of a hate crime, said: “We need to continue recording and monitoring these disability hate crimes, so we can see it for the huge problem it is.”
And fellow disabled delegate Margie Hill, who has also been the victim of a hate crime, said: “Disability hate crime needs to be acknowledged and stamped out.”
Prentis also told the conference that a new union survey had revealed that more than a third of disabled members who responded said they had been bullied at work in the previous six months.
His speech came as the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD) revealed that nine per cent of disabled people who responded to a national survey said they had been the victims of a disability hate crime.
John Knight, LCD’s director of policy and campaigns, said the figure was “deeply worrying”.
He said: “There is a clear need for more robust identification and recording of disability hate crimes, better support for disabled people who are victims of crime and improved access to justice.
Sharp rise in calls to disability hate helpline
Reporting of disability hate crimes to a hotline more than trebled last year and is set to rise sharply again this year, a conference has heard.
Calls about disability hate crime made to the helpline rose from 26 in 2007-08 to 93 last year, with 80 calls already received in the first half of this year.
The figures were revealed by the anti-hate crime charity Stop Hate UK, which runs the helpline and attributed the increase to rising awareness among disabled people.
Crime reduction minister Alan Campbell told the national hate crime conference, organised by the London Borough of Havering, that the deaths of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter Francecca had focused attention on the “torment” that can come from “systematic” abuse.
An inquest in September found that Pilkington committed suicide and unlawfully killed her daughter, Francecca, after a ten-year hate campaign led by a local gang, much of it directed at Francecca, who had learning difficulties.
Campbell said: “We need to work together to make sure that offenders are dealt with, but also crucially that victims are protected and supported.”
He said new guidance for Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships, to be issued as part of the government’s hate crime action plan, would help deal with “campaigns of prejudice and hate” such as that experienced by the Pilkington family.
But he said it was crucial to “build confidence” so victims of hate crime “feel able to come forward”.
Mark Brookes, a senior policy worker at the learning difficulties charity Values Into Action, said: “People with learning difficulties should act together to break the silence and learn about hate crime.”
He said more must be done to ensure people with learning difficulties know what a hate crime is and are confident enough to report such crimes.
But he called for “action and not strategies” and said he was tired of “just repeating and repeating” the hate crime message.
He said he himself has had eggs and tomatoes thrown at him and is afraid to leave his house after 8pm, as are many other people with learning difficulties.
Abigail Lock, Scope’s head of advocacy and campaigns, called for joined-up inter-agency working, for tackling disability hate crime to become a mainstream issue, and for investment in third-party reporting centres.
And Bennett Obong, project manager of the Metropolitan Police Authority’s hate crime forum, said: “It is actions that make a difference…communities need to see that there is a response from the agencies that have a responsibility.”
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