The news that hate crime towards autistic people will be the subject of a new £350,000 research programme will be welcomed by people with all disabilities.
High profile cases like that of the Pilkington family – in which tormented mother Fiona Pilkington killed herself and daughter Francecca Hardwick after being terrorised for years by local thugs – have meant that, in recent months, many people have heard of the idea of ‘disability hate crime’.
However, very few people realise how serious this problem actually is. Unfortunately, in many cases, this includes the police.
As a result, many victims of disability hate crime do not report the crimes for fear that they will not be believed or taken seriously if and when they do so.
So the news that hate crime towards autistic people will be the subject of a new £350,000 Big Lottery-funded research programme run by the Tizard Centre at the University of Kent, which aims to provide a better understanding of the hate crimes and victimisation targeted at such people, will no doubt be welcomed by people with all disabilities, including those who have been fortunate enough never to have been victims of a specific hate crime themselves.
It is to be hoped that news of this research will encourage more disabled people across the UK to report anything that they may consider to be a specific disability hate crime to the police as soon as possible and without fear. In September, Care Services Minister Phil Hope pledged a national autism strategy, reported by Left Foot Forward.
Senior lecturer in learning disability and principal investigator of the new project, Dr Julie Beadle-Brown, told Thanet News:
“It’s partly down to the fact that we have spent the past 30 years moving people out of institutions and into the community, allowing them to live where they like.
“But they can’t really be integrated if they can’t go out, are treated differently or worse if they are robbed or burgled. How often that sort of thing happens we don’t know, but what we do know is that it does happen.”
Maria Bremmers, network co-ordinator of Autism London, added:
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“A number of excellent community safety initiatives can be found in the UK, and Kent is no exception. But there is little robust evidence to inform policy and practice, especially concerning the experiences of people with autism.
“There is a strong commitment from all the stakeholders in this project to make a real difference by filling the gaps in knowledge and, where necessary, making real and lasting change.”