Mencap’s hate crime coalition plans in disarray


Disabled activists have criticised plans for a new disability hate crime coalition that will be led by one of the big disability charities, with little apparent involvement from disabled people.

Plans for the coalition appeared to be in disarray after disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) questioned why it was not being led by disabled people.

Mencap had announced that members of its coalition would include the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and other “disability charities”.

But the EHRC made it clear that it had not joined the coalition, while a Mencap spokeswoman was unable to provide the names of any disability charities that had joined.

An EHRC spokeswoman said its involvement was “informal” and that it hoped the coalition’s members would contribute evidence to its national inquiry into disability-related harassment.

Mencap – which is not led by disabled people – appears not to have asked the United Kingdom Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC) to join the coalition, even though UKDPC is at the centre of efforts to fight disability hate crime and represents DPOs across the country.

Anne Novis, who leads on hate crime issues for UKDPC, said: “They are going to be talking about us without us again. I am not going to support something that is not DPO-led.”

She said the apparent lack of funding for the coalition would mean there would be no money to ensure it was accessible to disabled people.

Stephen Brookes, coordinator of the National Disability Hate Crime Network, was also critical of the new “coalition” and said he had raised concerns with Mencap.

He said the group would “not really represent the people who are talking to the EHRC inquiry, and if this is another talking shop it will not do what needs doing”.

He said the London-based coalition would be inaccessible to many regional DPOs, while the “logistics, cost and time of the event make it inaccessible for me, and I assume others across the UK”.

Andrew Little, chief executive of Inclusion London, the capital’s new Deaf and disabled people’s organisation, said he was also concerned about the plans.

He said: “If it is the case that DPOs have been excluded it doesn’t make sense at all, particularly those that have already contributed so greatly to this area of work.”

A Mencap spokeswoman said: “After hearing concerns raised [our campaigns department]are having an open dialogue with the other organisations.”

When asked for the names of any of the members of the coalition – which is set to be launched on 26 July – or who would be chairing it, she said: “I do not have that information.”

She confirmed that Mencap was leading the coalition, but declined to comment further.

15 July 2010