Disabled activists have welcomed a new government hate crime action plan, but have criticised its lack of detail and a failure to provide funding for disabled people’s organisations.
The United Kingdom’s Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC) said it was disappointed that no pan-disability disabled people’s organisation had been given hate crime funding from the Home Office’s victims’ fund, while four grants had been given to learning difficulties organisations.
UKDPC had been seeking funds to develop an accessible national hate crime helpline for disabled people, and is now hoping an application to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) for a different hate crime project will prove more successful.
Last year, UKDPC, Disability Now magazine and Scope published Getting Away With Murder, a report on disability hate crime which called for urgent government action.
Julie Newman, UKDPC’s acting chair, said: “Perhaps there still isn’t the recognition given to the seriousness of the issues, despite the joint report on hate crime.”
Measures in the action plan include a pledge to review whether offenders guilty of disability hate crime murders should usually serve at least 30 years of a life sentence in prison, as they do with murders motivated by hatred of race, religion or sexual orientation.
Other measures in the 70-point plan include making it easier to report a hate crime to a third party if the victim feels unable to approach the police directly; making reporting hate crimes to the police more accessible; and improving support for victims.
The plan says that police forces will distribute information to disabled people and community organisations about disability hate crime and how to report it.
The Home Office and the national directors for learning disabilities, Anne Williams and Scott Watkin, will identify good practice in tackling hate crime against people with learning difficulties.
And the Office for Disability Issues will explore ways of creating more positive attitudes towards disabled people.
The Crown Prosecution Service will publish guidance for prosecutors, spelling out the difference between a “vulnerable” victim and someone subjected to a disability hate crime.
Meanwhile, the Home Office hopes to fund research to improve gaps in knowledge about the nature and extent of hate crime.
Anne Novis, who leads on hate crime for UKDPC, welcomed the references to disability in the action plan, but echoed Newman’s disappointment about funding and said there was disappointingly little detail on how improvements would be secured.
15 September 2009