Jill Davies, Research Programme Manager:
"Last week we met with members of the reference group for our Voice in the Community project.
The project, which has now been running for eight months, seeks to find out the extent of hate crime and harassment towards people with learning disabilities and to look at how communities can work together to protect the most vulnerable in our society. Crucially, the project puts those with learning disabilities right at the centre of things. It is a chance to hear personal stories of how intolerance affects their day-to-day lives and to listen to their own ideas on how we can start to fight back against this prejudice. All the members of the reference group have a learning disability and their role is to make sure the voice of people with learning disabilities is heard throughout the course of the project.
The results of the project so far have been startling, suggesting that this particular kind of intolerance and harassment is far more widespread than we could have possibly anticipated. Indeed, every single person in the reference group had experienced some form of harassment or had been the recipient of hate crime.
The group heard stories of abusive phone calls and cyber bullying; harassment in the workplace and by family members; opportunistic theft on an enormous scale; and systematic manipulation and exploitation by those who were considered to be ‘friends’. Not just hate-crimes, but crimes which exploited those with learning disabilities because they seemed like an easy target.
Neal, a member of our reference group told us:
‘I think it’s important to highlight the need to educate people around what a learning disability is’.
Neal’s view was reinforced by other members of the group. The project still has a long way to go, but people have lots of good ideas about how communities can support people. As long as we continue to listen to people we hope to have some effective solutions in a few years’ time."
20 January 2012