Monday, 4 August 2014

Mate crime awareness pushed up the agenda

Mate crime awareness pushed up the agenda
Taken from Big Issue in the North magazine of 28 July - August 3rd 2014. 
More police forces and advocacy organisations are working together to help people with learning disabilities to recognise and report “mate crime” incidents.
Mate crime is when someone befriends a person with a learning disability to exploit them. Examples include getting the disabled person to spend their money on someone else or being persuaded to allow their accommodation to be used for parties. Unless tackled, mate crime can also escalate. In 2008, 11 out of 18 victims of hate crime were killed by people they considered to be good friends.
In Bury, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and Bury Council have combined to provide
mate crime awareness training courses, and there has been a healthy take-up amongst people with learning difficulties, as well as staff from statutory and voluntary sector organisations.
Jane Watson of GMP’s partnership team, said: “We define what is a hate and a mate crime but also employ lots of visual images, quizzes and practical games. Until recently hate crime was under-reported and we want to ensure that is not the case for mate crime.
“We hope to encourage people with learning disabilities to report problems and understand that the police can play a preventive role.”
According to Peter Miller, service manager at the Woodbury supported living scheme for adults with learning difficulties in Whitefield, Bury: “The courses and the work to raise awareness, which started under two years ago, are one of the most positive things I have been involved in during my 20 years working in Bury.
“Some people are unsure they are being exploited and only slowly realise they have less money because they are the one buying all the drinks in the pub. If people are not properly supported and do not know they can report such incidents they can go on for a long time.”
In Yorkshire, the Calderdale Council Safe Place Scheme has developed a number of locations, including libraries and pubs, where people with learning difficulties, using a card listing important telephone numbers to them, can report mate and hate crime incidents.
‘Vulnerable people’
Staff at the safe places are then required to call the contact numbers or alternatively an emergency service. Hundreds of people with learning disabilities have attended information courses on the scheme.
The Calderdale scheme’s organiser Sail Suleman said: “We want vulnerable people to know there are locations where they will receive assistance if they experience problems when they are out. What we are trying to do is provide confidence to people and communities to report what is happening.”
Gillian* has warmly welcomed the scheme. She and her daughter both have learning difficulties. While living in Halifax they suffered continuous harassment both in their home and outdoors.
Police CCTV proved insufficient in deterring their harassers or providing sufficient evidence for a prosecution.
“We moved to Sowerby Bridge as it was becoming increasingly dangerous. Hate and mate crime both need highlighting,” said Gillian. “Too many people with learning disabilities do not report crimes and if this scheme helps give them the confidence to do so then that would be progress.”

* Name has been changed

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