Many people with learning disabilities still suffer from low level bullying and harassment. This is unacceptable and needs to stop.
Last week the writer Lynda La Plante was interviewed on Radio 4's Today programme on Friday 22nd March. The interview is at 2 hrs 27 minutes. You can skip to that point by moving the slider bar.
She was being interviewed about her recent award of an honorary fellowship by the Foresnsic Science Society. However, suddenly it came about that Lynda La Plante was explaining to the interviewer that she had been incorrectly quoted as calling the BBC "retards".
She said that she hadn't said that but she went on to explain that she doesn't send in her scripts because she knows that there will be a "retard" on the other end reading them.
Every day bullying and harassment are a real and persistent threat in the lives of thousands of people with learning disabilities. People face petty theft, name calling, casual violence and sometimes systematic abuse.
It rarely happens when support staff are there as their presence makes the bullies less likely to say or do anything. But it does happen when other people are present but do not intervene.
Patrick Harvie’s Hate Crime law should have helped to make things better for people with disabilities. The reality is that it has hardly been used. Of 7,000 aggravated offences taken to court in 2011, only 100 were for people with disabilities. And of the 100 made it to court only 5 in the whole of Scotland were proven (3 of theft and 2 breaches of the peace). There are more disability related crimes committed every day in Scotland!
Much of the problem lies in the attitudes of the police to first the crime itself (seen as being something that should be shrugged off) and then to people with learning disabilities themselves (seen as unreliable witnesses who cannot be relied on to give consistent evidence in court). [ for more details on this see the Equality and Human Rights Commission report called Hidden In Plain Sight from 2012]
As a result people with learning disabilities feel vulnerable, unsure of who they can trust. The damage done is multiplied because people have nowhere to turn to. It is time this law was properly put into effect. Most disability related crime takes place when other people are present . Most bystanders are uncomfortable but don’t know how to act.
We do not believe that we can shift society’s attitude by just taking more people to court. But by giving disability hate crime the public prominence that it deserves we can begin to establish that this form of crime in unacceptable and nudge those bystanders to stand up and intervene.
An enclosed play area for a teenage pupil with learning difficulties and autism, which was described as a "cage" by his MSP, has been removed.
The 18-year-old's parents raised funds for a safe play area at the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway, on Lewis.
"I believe that 'cage' is a reasonable description” said Alasdair Allan Western Isles MSP
However, SNP MSP Alasdair Allan said the parents were "deeply upset" to see what had been constructed.
Western Isles Council - Comhairle nan Eilean Siar - said it wanted to apologise unreservedly to the family.
Norman MacDonald, vice chairman of the policy and resources committee, said the enclosure was the result of a communication breakdown between staff and the supplier.
A survey by Mencap of people with a learning disability has found that nearly nine out of ten respondents have experienced bullying in the last year. Two-thirds are bullied on a regular basis and almost one-third are suffering from bullying on a daily or weekly basis. People with a learning disability face prejudice and widespread discrimination that often makes them feel like outcasts and prevents them from taking a full part in society.
Public attitudes in the United Kingdom towards people with a learning disability remain discriminatory. The Mencap survey suggests that the bullying of people with a learning disability is institutionalised throughout society.
Nearly nine out of ten people (88%) with a learning disability reported being bullied within the last year. Living In Fear demonstrates that people with a learning disability are targeted as they form a vulnerable section of society. As a direct consequence of their disability they experience intolerable levels of discrimination in the form of bullying. The bullying of people with a learning disability is also distinguished by the regular and ongoing nature of the act. People with a learning disability are often lifelong victims. Two-thirds of people (66%) said that they had been bullied regularly (more than once a month) with 32% stating that bullying was taking place on a daily or weekly basis. For almost a third of respondents, most days bring another encounter with bullying. Simple activities such as leaving the house, walking to work or catching a bus to the shops are often upsetting and distressing experiences. Often bullying is carried out so frequently that the victim is able to identify the perpetrator. The effect of regular bullying can be devastating. Being called a name may appear trivial in itself, but it can assume a greater significance when it happens all the time to the same person. Such intimidation constantly impinges on the daily lives of people with a learning disability. It reinforces negative feelings of being isolated and different.
'I get called stupid, teased all the time. Children follow me every day and call me names, threaten to kill me, in the street and at the centre'.
Female, 40, Glasgow
'I face bullying all the time. People at the day centre call me names and threaten me, the bus driver told me to get off the bus. Sometimes when I'm out, people laugh at me because of my disability and shop keepers are rude if they can't understand me, or if I take time sorting out my money'
Female, 48 London
'On my way home, I have to pass by the youth centre and am called names by young people. This happens everyday from Monday to Friday, and gets worse in the school holidays as they're around all day and all night'
Male, 32, Manchester
What is bullying?
Bullying is when you are picked on or called names. Bullying is when you are treated unfairly or differently to other people. Bullying is when you are left out or ignored.
Bullying at work.
At work you can be bullied by the people you work with or by your boss. Bullying at work is called harassment. Bullying can happen face-to-face or by telephone, text or email.
It is not OK to be bullied or harassed.
What can you do?
The law says that you must not be bullied at work because you have a disability. If you think you are being bullied at work you must tell someone.
- You can talk to your friends and family.
- You can talk to your support worker.
- You can talk to a manager at work.
- You can talk to an advocacy service.
- You can talk to a trade union.
It is a good idea to keep a diary of what happened and when and where it happened.
Who can help you?
If you are being bullied, you can raise a grievance against your employer. This means that you can make a formal complaint. Ask for a copy of your employer’s grievance procedure. Your employer must look into it and try to make sure that you do not get bullied again.
What to do if the bullying does not stop.
If the bullying does not stop, you can go to a lawyer and get advice. You may need to go to court to get the bullying to stop. This is a big step. Your lawyer will help you to decide what to do.
What words mean
This is a paper that explains the steps you can take if you are unhappy about something at work, and what your employer will do about it.
More information is available from Enable Scotland