Autism and learning disability hate crime campaign

Tackling autism and learning disability hate crime

21st March 2017

There’s a Thunderclap happening on social media this week and it’s all to do with showing the world why autism and learning disability hate crime needs to end. By signing up to the Thunderclap, a message will be sent from your Twitter, Facebook and/or Tumblr account at the same time as other supporters in one big social media hit. Here, Dimensions tells My Family, Our Needs all about its #ImWithSam campaign, which launched the Thunderclap, and how you can sign up to it to show your support.

Constant bullying and severe name calling in school and in public. no confidence, felt I wanted to end my life, am a teenager. No kids understand my autism…

These words were written by an anonymous respondent to a survey conducted by support provider Dimensions, exploring people’s experience of hate crime directed at adults and children with learning disabilities and autism. This response was, sadly, far from atypical.

That survey became a campaign called #ImWithSam. A campaign led by Dimensions, but backed by 17 organisations working with adults and children across the learning disability and autism sector, including the major self-advocacy voices: Learning Disability England and the National Forum for People with Learning Disabilities.

Who is Sam?

Sam represents the 73% of people with learning disabilities and autism we surveyed, who have experienced hate crime –  mostly within the last year. Sam is like you, your child, your brother or sister – except that a learning disability or autism makes him (or her) a target for verbal, physical and financial abuse. A target for on- and offline bullies. A target for children, neighbours, strangers and friends with manipulative, sometimes criminal intentions.

Why do we need #ImWithSam?

#ImWithSam challenges current government processes and tackles the root causes of autism and learning disability hate crime. Currently, hate crimes are recorded for disabled people, however the criminal offences detailing hate crime do not cover disabled people.

#ImWithSam seeks to make eight changes which will help improve our understanding of the patterns of hate crime for people with learning disabilities and autism.

The changes will make children and young people more aware of learning disability helping them celebrate, rather than scorn, difference. They will improve processes, resources and training across the police and crown prosecution service. They will help people with learning disabilities and those around them to recognise, and report, hate. And they will take steps to tackle the growing problem of so-called ‘mate’ crime.

The eight outcomes of #ImWithSam

There are eight outcomes that #ImWithSam wants to see as a result of the campaigning:

  1. Have disability hate statistics separated into learning disability/autism, and other disabilities.
  2. Have the law changed to make disability hate a crime online.
  3. Get the Department of Education to adapt resources to better support all primary and secondary schools with positive messages around difference.
  4. Get manufacturers, producers and authors to incorporate learning disability sensitivity into their products.
  5. Get the Department of Health to develop simple guidance to help families and support workers identify, and manage cases of hate crime.
  6. Get the Crown Prosecution Service to improve investigation protocols within the criminal justice system in situations where there is a learning disabled or autistic victim.
  7. Get the Home Office to improve resources and training for police officers and others, to help them when receiving a report of hate crime from a person with a learning disability or autism, including funding self-advocates to provide specialist victim support.
  8. Evaluation of the effectiveness of coercive behaviour and other legislation, leading to specific change recommendations and/or a green paper recommendation on stronger legislation to protect vulnerable people from mate crime to be undertaken by Dimensions and its campaign partners will.

How does hate crime affect people?

Hate crime robs people of their confidence, their independence and sometimes, their lives. As a support provider for people with learning disabilities and autism across the country, Dimensions has often seen and heard the horror of hate. And as members of the learning disability and autism community, it’s likely you or your child will have experienced some form of hate crime too. By supporting #ImWithSam you can help do something concrete to change things for the better.

What can you do to help?

Sam certainly needs help from our Government, but he also needs your help. Strong public backing makes it easier to effect change. You can help in three easy ways:

Sign up as a campaign supporter at www.dimensions-uk.org/withsam and encourage your family, friends and network to do likewise.

Write to your MP and ask him/her to publicly support #ImWithSam. You can do this easily by visiting www.writetothem.com and pointing them to the campaign website.

And if you would be happy to share your story with the campaign, email us at online@dimensions-uk.org. We’ll be in touch to find out more.

Together, let’s stop people with learning disabilities and autism living in fear of hate.

You can read more about the petition to amend existing hate crime legislation to specifically include disabled people – and the Government’s response to it – here.

You can sign up to the Thunderclap, which goes live on Wednesday 22nd March at 1pm here. It will launch a campaign video, showing real-life stories from victims of autism and learning disability hate crime. My Family, Our Needs has signed up so let’s all make a noise together.



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