Violence, abuse, bullying: an untold story of disabled people living in Wales

Commission calls in evidence on disability-related harassment

Today the Equality and Human Rights Commission is calling on disabled people to tell us about the disability-related violence and abuse they experience in their daily lives.

We are using our legal powers to conduct a Formal Inquiry to examine how disabled people, their family, friends and carers who have experienced harassment have been supported, or not, by public authorities.

What public bodies such as local authorities, the police, social services, schools and public transport operators do – or don’t do – to prevent this is being investigated by the Commission.

At the end of the Inquiry, councils, police, schools social housing and other public bodies, bus and train companies found not doing enough to tackle the problem of disability harassment could face legal action to force them to comply with their legal obligations.

Key research [1] carried out by us in 2009 revealed some shocking facts about the lives of disabled people in Britain.

  • Disabled people are four times more likely to be victims of crime compared to non disabled people.
  • Disabled children and young people particularly those with learning disabilities, are most at risk.
  • Name-calling and verbal abuse is widespread, often undetected and often escalates into a more serious incident.
  • Disabled people restructure their lives to avoid risk of harassment and abuse.

Many of these incidents against disabled people go unreported but in the last 12 months the Commission has monitored stories from the Welsh media of name-calling, robbery and intimidation, damage to property, assault – even manslaughter and murder.

The first wave of evidence-gathering will be collected until Friday 10 September 2010. It can be given directly to the Commission via our website, helpline or email.

Kate Bennett, National Director for Wales, Equality and Human Rights Commission, is asking disabled people to come forward and give evidence to the Inquiry.

She says: “There can be no more important human right than to live life in safety and with security. Its absence prevents us from living our lives to the full. Disabled people should have the same right as everyone else to walk down the street without being intimidated or assaulted, to attend school without being bullied, to get on a bus or live in their house without fear.

“Abuse, intimidation and violence against disabled people can be terrifying and is largely an untold story here in Wales. If we collect enough stories at this evidence gathering stage it will help us all to identify solutions and put them into practice. Improving life for disabled people in Wales is an urgent task."

Rhian Davies, member of the Commission's Wales and Disability Committees and Chief Executive of Disability Wales, says: “We welcome the decision to investigate the level and depth of abuse, violence and harassment experienced by disabled people in Wales. We are determined to move this up the agenda. To this end we are holding a ground-breaking event to bring together Welsh police forces and disabled people's organisations to identify some practical steps we can take.

“Following the deaths of Brent Martin and Fiona Pilkington and her daughter Francecca, there needs to be a commitment to action to ensure all disabled people in Wales live a fulfilled, safe and secure life.”

Social Justice and Local Government Minister, Carl Sargeant said: “Incidents of disability-related violence are shocking and wholly unacceptable. We all have a duty to protect the most vulnerable in society and ensure that disabled people and those with long term health conditions are able to live a life without fear.

“This is why I welcome the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s decision to use its powers to undertake this inquiry. It is an excellent opportunity for disabled people to tell us about their individual experiences. This Inquiry will tackle these issues and help build a society that treats people with dignity and respect, irrespective of their personal characteristics.”

More information about the Inquiry and how to give evidence can be found on the Commission’s website at www.equalityhumanrights.com/disabilityharassmentfi, by sending an email to disabilityharassmentfi@equalityhumanrights.com or by contacting the Commission’s helpline by telephone or textphone:

 

England: Telephone: 08456 046 610 Textphone: 08456 046 620
Scotland: Telephone: 08456 045 510 Textphone: 08456 045 520
Wales: Telephone: 08456 048 810 Textphone: 08456 048 820

 

Notes for Editors
Please contact Saska Shepherd on 02920 447787, mobile 07940433768 for more information or to book an interview slot (for Monday June 14th between 11am and 4pm).

[1] Promoting the Safety and Security of Disabled People

The Commission’s report, Promoting the Safety and Security of Disabled People, can be found at: //www.equalityhumanrights.com/fairer-britain/good-relations/safety-and-security-for-disabled-people/

Terms of Reference for the Inquiry
Full details of what the Inquiry will look into are set out in the Terms of Reference, which can be found at: www.equalityhumanrights.com/disabilityharassmentfi.

Definition of disability-related harassment

Disability-related harassment is unwanted, exploitative or abusive conduct against disabled people, including bullying and hate-crimes. Harassment creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading or offensive environment and violates the dignity, safety, security or autonomy of the person experiencing it.

Public sector duties

The Commission has produced guidance to help public authorities understand what their duties and responsibilities are and how these duties should be implemented. This can be found at: //www.equalityhumanrights.com/advice-and-guidance/public-sector-duties/.
 

Last Updated: 14 Jun 2010