Disability Hate Crime

Most Evenbreak blogs are related to the workplace and employment, and this is a bit of a departure, as I’m going to talk about disability hate crime. As an employer, of course, this may well be affecting any or all of your disabled employees, so it’s something we should all be aware of.

It was reported last month that hate crimes against disabled people have soared to record levels. 1,942 disability hate crimes were recorded by police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland last year. Disability hate crime has doubled since the financial crisis started in 2008. And of course these are just those crimes that are a) reported at all, and b) categorised by the police as disability hate crime rather than, say, anti-social behaviour.

Whilst it would be good to think that the increase in reported crimes means that people now feel more comforable about reporting these crimes to the police, many charities are suggesting that the increase is instead related to a shift in the public’s perception of disabled people, fuelled in part by the Coalition government’s rhetoric around “benefit scroungers”, eagerly taken up by the media. A study last year showed that the public believed that between 50 and 70 per cent of those on disability benefit were fraudulent, whereas the real figure is less than 1%.

Disability charities have a steady flow of reports of disability hate crime that the victims are too frightened to take to the police. They fear they won’t be believed or taken seriously – even more so if they have learning disabilities or mental health issues.

A new report, “A Step in the Right Direction”, written five years after Fiona Pilkington famously killed herself and her daughter Francesca following repeated reports to the police which were ignored, suggests that many victims still fall through the net. There has been an improvement since a previous report “Stop the Riot” in 2010, which reported that many officers did not see responding to anti social behaviour as “real police work” and tended to ignore its massive scale. However, despite an increase in confidence in the police since then, a third of victims still don’t feel they get the service they should, rising to half in some areas.

There seem to be a number of issues here. The perception of disabled people by the rest of the community is heavily influenced by the words and actions of the politicians and the way the media portrays disabled people. If an accurate picture of reality was presented by both – that the vast majority of disabled people (99%) are not fraudsters, and that actually many disabled people are not claiming benefits at all or are not claiming as much as they are entitled to. And that the numbers of people apparently being found “fit to work” by a French computer company are wildly inaccurate, as the numbers of successful appeals would prove. Also, improvements in the way the police are trained to effectively deal with complaints of disability hate crime need to be urgently accelerated so that perpetrators understand this behaviour is unaccepetable and will not be tolerated.

Being disabled, living in fear of meagre benefits being further cut, is bad enough without being terrified to go outside your own front door in case you are abused or assaulted. Is this the kind of civilised society we really want to live in and be proud of? What are your thoughts?

 

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9 thoughts on “Disability Hate Crime

  1. The very thought of a disabled person being subject to any kind of crime sickens me, frankly. Perpetrators of this are the worst kind of cowards and should be severely punished.

    But for a disabled person to be the victim of a crime purely because s/he is disabled, utterly beggars belief. What kind of monster is capable of this? From what kind of moral pestilence is our society suffering, that such acts occur at all?

    Sadly I don’t have any answers, only questions.

    Thank God there are people like you, Jane, who publicize the atrocities of disability hate crime so that maybe the powers-that-be will, at long last, take notice – and take action that works.

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  2. I live in Toronto, Canada and had a stroke in 2005 which left me with visible disabilities. I find (and believe) that people are good so I haven’t had any crime perpettated against me. But your blog post will mean that I look up statistics on this here.

    I too like you and Suzan think it’s appalling.

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  3. I live in Toronto, Canada and had a stroke in 2005 which left me with visible disabilities. I find (and believe) that people are good so I haven\’t had any crime perpettated against me. But your blog post will mean that I look up statistics on this here.

    I too like you and Suzan think it\’s appalling.

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  4. I’m very lucky – I have had some awful comments made to me like “I’d rather be dead than be as disabled as you”, *you should pray harder”, “aren’t you lucky, lying down all day?”, “Maybe God made you disabled because you weren’t following his purpose?” and “people like you should stay indoors because you slow the rest of us up” (whilst I was hobbling around a shop once) – but I’ve never been spat at or physically attacked.

    I did have a good friend (who chose not to work) once comment how “lucky” I was to live on benefits! I was working very hard running a business from my bed (no, not that sort of business – this sort of business!) and I was almost certainly paying myself far less than she was getting on job seekers allowance.

    But I read or hear about, or friends tell me about disabled people every day who are spat at, pushed out of their wheelchair, stolen from, taunted, called benefit cheating scum and others who are beaten, urinated on, and have their house burned down. The stories are horrific and all too real. It’s heartbreaking.

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  5. There’s a certain kind of bully who targets those whom he (or she) figures are easy prey and whom he can get away with abusing. Utterly vile.

    I hope this post is widely read so that people become more aware of hate crimes against those with disabilities.

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  6. That’s utterly shocking and prompts a couple of thoughts. Please would you post a link to the study showing that only 1% are actually benefit scroungers? I’d like to share the source data more widely.

    Also, your mention of ‘riots’ reminded me that I read yesterday the hashtag ‘reverseriots’ was launched in order to improve the perception of young people. More here http://vinspired.com/dosomething/

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  7. I have been shouted at, called an F*****g C**t, abused because I walk with a stick etc , all by one particular person. I filed a complaint and he has stopped, but its nasty coming face to face him on the occasion he comes near where I live.

    What I find difficult is that because of the rise in alcohol abuse in public areas, a lot of public seating has been removed and I can’t sit down as easily when out and about.

    I also find it hard when I’m walking along with shopping bags AND a walking stick. Its obvious surely, that someone with a stick has mobility issues, so why can’t people make the connection that someone with a stick AND shopping is going to have even more mobility issues and so NOT walk across in front of me!

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  8. Nicola, thank you so much for sharing your horrific experiences. I’m sorry you have had to go through all that. I wish these incidents were untypical, but sadly disabled people seem to be acceotable victims these days. Of those reported, only one in four results in a conviction. What message does that give?

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