The recent figures announced by the Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland show a year on year rise in reported disability hate crime – the only area of hate crime to have risen. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. We would agree with The Lord Advocate that disability-related crimes are still being under-reported and welcome further work to change this.
The horrific murder of Lee Irving in Newcastle only highlights the discrimination and physical and verbal intimidation that people who have learning disabilities experience day in day out.
It can be so common that it is often not reported.
It is heartening to see police and prosecutors dealing with the problem robustly, but disabled people need to have more confidence in the reporting system. They also need to see a change in public attitude that supports this.
Our members have told us about their experiences and that is why we launched our campaign #bethechange last year, to highlight disability hate crime and the last taboo of the verbal abuse people who have disabilities suffer. The words they said particularly hurt were mong, spaz and retard.
As part of that campaign, we have produced resources for teachers to use in the classroom to help future generations stamp out this problem.
We know that many of the current generation of school pupils do not tolerate this sort of abuse, but we need to let EVERY pupil know the damage and suffering hate crime can cause. Research shows that young people who have an understanding about learning disability are less likely to bully people who have a learning disability.
Our school resources are intended to help create a safe environment in which young people can learn more about learning disability to foster better understanding, meaning they are less likely to bully their peers who have learning disabilities or commit hate crime later in life.
Teachers can lead that process of learning and make a stand to #bethechange.
We would urge every teacher in Scotland to talk to their pupils about hate crime, and change attitudes so that pupils report these crimes, whether they are a victim themselves or a witness. And encourage them to sign up to our #bethechange challenge.
Assistant Director Campaigns and Membership