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Disability Hate Crimes

Volume 540: debated on Thursday 23 February 2012

No one should fear abuse for who they are, and tackling hate crime against disabled people is an issue that this Government take very seriously. We are improving the recording of such crimes, and working with the voluntary partners to encourage more victims to come forward. We will publish the Government’s new action plan on hate crime shortly.

I thank my hon. Friend for her answer, but what specific measures are the Government taking to encourage victims to come forward so that we can finally stamp out this atrocious crime?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to want to know the specifics, as under-reporting is a real concern in this area. That is why we continue to work with the police and the voluntary sector, including with organisations such as Radar, which has designed initiatives to increase the reporting of hate crime through third-party reporting organisations. I urge my hon. Friend and other hon. Members to take this opportunity to look at the guidance on hate crime that we issued yesterday to see how they can help to drive awareness of this issue in their own constituencies.

The Minister will be aware that the recent report from the Work and Pensions Select Committee on the transition from disability living allowance to personal independence payment has made it clear yet again that some statements made by the Department have themselves encouraged a negative view of people with disabilities. What steps is she taking to ensure that anything coming out from the Department cannot be misinterpreted in that way?

I agree with the hon. Lady. Anything that fuels hostility or harassment is absolutely unacceptable. I believe that for too long the benefits system itself has trapped people in a life of welfare dependency, and that if we are to tackle this issue effectively, it must be subjected to a radical overhaul. Perhaps it is those who are reluctant to accept such a change in the benefits system, which has trapped 5 million people on out-of-work benefits, who are standing in the way of what is needed.

Is the Minister aware that according to the findings of research conducted by the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, published in The Independent yesterday, 80% of young disabled people do not believe that the police will act on their concerns about disability hate crime? Will she undertake to talk to the Home Secretary about the matter, to ensure that police authorities and, soon, elected police and crime commissioners take the matter seriously?

My hon. Friend is right: that is an excellent piece of research. We are focusing on helping voluntary sector partners, including Radar to do more to enable disabled people to report to third sector organisations so that they can gain the access to justice that they need.