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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