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|04 Dec 2015|
Forth Valley Stronger Together
Sue Graham is 42 years old and has a learning disability. At the start of June, she was crossing a bridge in a quiet part of Edinburgh on her way to catch a bus. 3 young boys, probably not older than 12, approached her from the other side of the bridge, they stopped in front of her and called her an offensive name. Sue didn’t know what to do. She said afterwards “I could have run away but they would have caught me. I just stood there.”
The older boy asked her for money. “After a minute, I just gave them everything I had and they went away,” Sue told us afterwards. She was distressed and had to walk 2 miles to the meeting – her bus fares were part of what was stolen.
Disability Hate Crimes are common for people with learning disabilities. So common that they are rarely reported and even less is done about them. Sue never reported her incident. “It wasn’t much money”, she said.
The middle of August sees the start of Police Scotland’s Tackling Hate Crime Awareness month. Each week will feature a different type of Hate Crime, starting with disability, then moving on to gender, race and sexual orientation. Police Scotland want to take this seriously and so they should! Figures published earlier this year show a 270% increase in the reporting of disability hate crime in the last year alone.
Disability hate crime has unfortunately been with us for a long time. The EHRC report, Hidden In Sight reports that in 2007, Laura Milne, a young woman with learning disabilities living in Aberdeen was murdered by 3 people. She was repeatedly slashed across the throat with a kitchen knife. One of her three attackers, Debbie Buchan had bullied her in school and then joined in another attack on Laura with a golf club. It is likely there were many more unrecorded incidents of bullying that Laura had to endure before her death but no one ever reported them.
Earlier this year, Katharine Quaramby, author of “Scapegoat, Why We Are Failing Disabled People” carried out a small survey of people who had been the subject of hate crime attacks. She found that a sizeable number were linked to accusations of the victims being scroungers or faking to get extra benefits. It may be that the focus on “benefit scroungers” in the media and by some politicians has contributed to the rise. Her study is too small to have many answers but it does indicate that we need to understand the motivation of why disability hate crimes are carried out so we can deal with it better.
The Learning Disability Alliance Scotland is working alongside other voluntary organisations and Police Scotland to find new ways of tackling disability hate crimes. These include Keep Safe spaces – shops and offices - where people feeling threatened on the street can go in to for shelter and training for Police call centres to improve their work with disabled people.
And we are also launching this week our new wristband – “Disability Hate Crime – See It, Report It – Call 101.” Available in yellow and black, they are free to all our member organisations.
We think it really important that more people call 101 to report these incidents. That’s what Sue should have done. No one thought when Laura was first bullied by Debbie Buchan that it would end only a few years later with Buchan joining in her killing. Reporting even the smallest disability hate crime is the first step to making sure this kind of attack never happens again.
Hate crimes against the disabled have more than tripled in five years and prosecutors have warned the rise could be the tip of the iceberg. Reports of aggravation of prejudice relating to disability have risen by 270% from 48 in 2010/11 to 177 last year, official figures from the Crown Office have revealed. There was a 20% increase since 2013/14 alone.
The report states: "There is a broad consensus that this type of crime continues to be under reported compared to other forms of hate crime. Both Police Scotland and COPFS (Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service) are engaged in a variety of activities aimed at increasing the level of awareness, especially amongst disability communities, that hate crime is unacceptable and should not be tolerated."
The number of charges reported in all hate crime categories with the exception of disability fell in 2014/15 compared to the previous year. Racial crime remains the most commonly reported hate crime, with 3,785 charges reported in 2014/15, but this is the lowest number reported since 2003/04.
If you want to know where to report Disability Hate Crime, check out our map of 3rd Party Reporting Centres or call 101..
Supreme Court overturns key Court of Appeal decision on ordinary residence
The Supreme Court has rejected a Court of Appeal ruling on who has financial responsibility for the care of an adult with physical and learning disabilities, instead ruling that the local authority initially responsible for meeting his needs as a child should be responsible for his care after the age of 18.
The ruling was made despite the subject, PH, having been placed in foster care outside the authority’s area from the age of five, having lived out-county all of his adult life and his natural parents having also moved away from the local authority area of his birth.
PH has physical and learning disabilities and there is no dispute that he is entitled to receive care costing around £80,000 per annum. He was born in Wiltshire in 1986, but was placed by Wiltshire County Council with foster parents in the South Gloucestershire Council area from 1991. Since he was 17, PH has lived in two care homes in Somerset. His natural parents moved to Cornwall from Wiltshire after his foster placement was made and PH regularly visited them there for holidays.
The dispute over who should pay for his care was initially referred by the councils concerned – Cornwall, Wiltshire, Somerset and South Gloucestershire - to the Health Secretary to determine “the proper approach to the determination of a person's 'ordinary residence' within the meaning, and for the purposes, of Part III of the National Assistance Act 1948, where that person lacks capacity to decide where to live.”
Following reports in England that the NHS is to stop 'over-medicating' people with learning disabilities, questions are being raised if the same thing is happening in Scotland.
NHS England has pledged to take urgent action after reports highlighted that as many as 1 in 6 people are being ‘over-medicated’ by healthcare professionals, and that up to 35,000 adults with a learning disability are being prescribed an antipsychotic, an antidepressant or both without appropriate clinical justification. That would imply that possibly about 3,000 people with learning disabilities might be affected if a similar system was in place here.
But so far we cannot find out because proper records of the same sort that exist in England do not yet exist in Scotland.
Record numbers of people with learning disabilities and mental health conditions are being helped into work by the Access to Work scheme.
New figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show more than 2,000 people with a learning disability were helped by the initiative in the year to 31 March 2015 with more new awards than ever before. The number of people with mental health conditions using the scheme – which includes the recently-established Mental Health Support Service in Access to Work – has continued to rise and now stands at more than 1,600.
Users can receive help with travel to work as well as access to support workers and specialist adaptations to help overcome the challenges they face in the workplace. Their employers will receive financial support with the extra costs associated with employing a disabled person beyond reasonable adjustments expected under the law.
Access to Work is a demand led scheme, and the increase in users with a learning disability or mental health condition comes as the overall number of disabled people using the scheme to find or stay in work reaches a 5-year high. In 2014/15 growth continued for the third consecutive year with an additional 1,200 more people supported, taking the total to 36,760.
Since April 2007, Access to Work has helped nearly 124,000 disabled people into employment. Changes to the scheme announced in March this year introduced personal budgets for those who want them as well as enhancing support for disabled people who wish to start their own businesses.