Things that we haven’t covered elsewhere in this document include:
1. Providing support to help people with learning disabilities and their families to manage the changes to welfare benefits that are due to start in 2013. There are two important areas here. First benefit money will be paid every month. Everybody will have to budget to manage this but it will be hard for many people who are used to getting money every fortnight and sometimes every week. There should be more help and training for people with learning disabilities to be better at budgeting. Secondly there will be a preference to make applications online. But computer applications are difficult for many people with learning disabilities. In our research we found that very few people found using computers easy. We would like to be able to make phone or written applications. But nonetheless for the start of the new benefits we think that there should be more help and advice for people with learning disabilities to fill in applications. It will be much easier for people if things are right first time rather than having to appeal. Both types of support would be temporary to help people manage the changes.
2. Tackling disability hate crime is very important to many people with learning disabilities. There is still a lot of experience that people have of bullying and harassment. Figures from the Scottish Government show low levels of both reporting of such crimes and of successful prosecutions of disability related hate crime compared to other forms of hate crime. The research carried out for the Same As You review reflected this problem with people being upset to talk about this problem.
We think there should be a real attempt to implement the existing law on this. Such attitudes will take longer to remove but a firm approach to Disability Hate Crime linked to positive changes in people’s lives and local communities can help.
Implementing the Hate Crime legislation is not just about punishing the offenders it will be sending a wider message to the community that this behaviour is not acceptable. Many hate crimes take place in public places with other people present. Such bystanders often don’t take part but also do little to stop this as they fail to realise the seriousness of what is happening. The more effective prosecution of individuals and publicising of convictions will lead to more people being willing to step in. The successful use of legislation can “nudge” others into taking action to protect individuals far more effectively than the criminal process can.
3. We think that there is a need to address the needs of people with learning disabilities within the criminal justice system. There have been a number of attempts at this over the last ten years but problems persist. Many people with learning disabilities are unrecognised within the criminal justice system. One estimate is that 1,000 Scottish prisoners have a learning disability or are on the border line. Only 3 prisons have a specialist learning disability service – Polmont, Greenock and Cortonvale. In Barlinnie, 80 prisoners have “paperwork” identifying them as having a learning disability but it is possible that twice as many are undiagnosed or have no paperwork. A rollout of simple assessment tools such as the Hayes Ability Screening Index, which gives a quick indication of a person’s IQ helps to identify those with a learning disability. Such prisoners can then receive additional input and are linked with social work agencies and voluntary organisations. This can help to reduce reoffending by up to 20% saving lots of money.