Disabled children are almost twice as likely to be victims of crime than non-disabled children, according to a revealing new report from the human rights watchdog.
Research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found that 22% of young disabled people aged 10-15 living in England and Wales were victims of crime in the last twelve months, compared to 12% of non-disabled children.
EHRC Chair David Isacc said the findings question the legacy of the London Paralympics and assumptions that the games improved attitudes towards disabled people.
“After the huge success of the Paralympic Games, young disabled people were looking forward to a far brighter future than any previous generation”, he said.
He added: “These findings are a wake-up call that there is still much more that needs to change.
“We cannot hope to create a more inclusive society for future generations while disabled children continue to live in a climate of fear of victimisation”, he said.
[contextly_sidebar id=”3UgDsc3uozx8cumKkk40m2GCn02Uva3p”]According to the report, people with mental health issues and social or behavioural impairments, including those with autism and Asperger’s syndrome, experience particularly high levels of crime, with 35% being targeted in the last year.
Mr Isaac said: “People with mental illnesses and social or behavioural impairments experience some of the greatest misunderstanding and mistrust in society.
“In spite of progress on perceptions towards people with ‘visible’ disabilities, hostility towards mental health issues remain widespread.
“What our research today confirms is that, in contrast to the commonly held prejudice linking criminality to poor mental health, people with mental illnesses are in fact more likely than average to be a victim of a crime.”
Researchers also found that people with disabilities tend to worry more about becoming a victim of crime than non-disabled people.
There were approximately 56,000 incidents of disability hate crime between 2011 to 2014, but statistics suggest the vast majority of those responsible escape prosecution. However, six in ten victims of disability hate crime say they were satisfied with how police handled incidents.
Figures from the Crown Prosecution Service show prosecutions for disability hate crimes have risen by more than 40% in the last year, up from 666 in 2014/15 to 941 in 2015/16. There has also been a sharp rise in the number of convictions, from 503 to 707.
Geoff Heyes, Policy and Campaigns Manager at the mental health charity MIND, said: “People with mental health problems still face stigma and discrimination, even at the hands of those meant to support them.
“Not only does living with a mental health problem make you more likely to be a victim of crime, but research from Victim Support and Mind has also found that too often, victims with a history of mental health problems are dismissed, not believed, or even blamed.
“We welcome this important research, and are pleased to see that reporting of disability hate crimes has increased, perhaps because police, commissioners, healthcare staff, support agencies, local and national government are better working together to remove the barriers victims might face in coming forward to report a crime.”
Ruth Owen, Whizz-Kidz Chief Executive, added: “There are two reasons that this report is so alarming; first that disabled people are at a greater risk of crime at all, and second that young disabled people fear becoming victims of crime even more than their peers.
“That young disabled people’s lives should be blighted by the fear – and reality – of criminal activity is alarming and distressing.
“This report shines a much-needed light on the reality for many disabled people; we hope that its damning findings lead to a better deal for disabled people who – just like everyone else – deserve a life free from becoming a victim of crime.”