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Crime Against Disabled People

Volume 569: debated on Wednesday 14 February 1996

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3.5 p.m.

Whether there has been an increase in crime against disabled people; and if so what steps are being taken to combat it.

My Lords, the recorded crime figures do not provide information on crime suffered specifically by disabled people. The 1994 British Crime Survey has provided information on the level and nature of crime experienced by disabled people, but any trends will not be discernible until the results of the same questions in the 1996 British Crime Survey are known.

My Lords, despite that negative Answer, is the Minister aware that research shows that disabled people are three times more likely to be attacked in their homes and are also more likely to be attacked outside their homes than non-disabled people? Fear plays a large and damaging role in their lives. Cannot the department co-ordinate the work between the agencies involved— the police, the crime prevention panels and disabled people's organisations themselves— and do so preferably under the auspices of the Home Office Working Party, which should be fully funded?

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his questions. The British Crime Survey, which is a respected survey and takes into account some 14,500 applicants, 19 per cent. of which comprises information returned from disabled people, shows that there was little difference between crime suffered by disabled people and crime suffered by non-disabled people.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that some disabled people who live on their own leave their front doors unlocked in case they need help from outside in an emergency? As this is tempting to thieves, will the Government encourage local arrangements, such as spare keys being held at police stations, so that these doors can be kept locked?

My Lords, I understand what my noble friend is asking. I also understand that this facility is available in some form. It is something that we shall be looking at later.

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that there are increasing reports that employees of private agencies which provide domiciliary care in the community are pilfering from old people, using their telephones and abusing their duties to the people they are caring for, both the old and the disabled? Do the Government intend to license the agencies which provide the care so that employees can be properly trained and vetted?

My Lords, the noble Countess is correct. Such activities should be utterly deplored. Local authorities are responsible for setting and monitoring quality standards both for people they employ directly and for independent agencies with which they have contact. The Department of Health is currently carrying out a major review of the way in which social services are regulated and inspected. I am sure that this factor will be taken into account in that review.

My Lords, I find the Minister's response to that question rather strange in view of the fact that the Government turned down an Opposition amendment only yesterday on the registration of agencies for the disabled and their staff. Would it not have been helpful to have acceded to that amendment which would have helped the cause that the noble Countess, Lady Mar, is urging?

My Lords, I believe that that question is somewhat wide of the Question on the Order Paper. I understand the point that the noble Lord is trying to make. I believe that we were debating the Broadcasting Bill yesterday afternoon—

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Home Office has a working party looking into the problems of disabled people and crime? Is the Minister further aware that the Suzy Lamplugh Trust and the Greater London Association for Disabled People have also carried out some research and that all these combine to agree that crime against disabled people is very serious and far more important than it is for normal people? I find the Minister's answer quite inexplicable. I should be most grateful if he would look at the matter again because we want some action as these people are terrified. It is not good enough to say that we do not know.

My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord if he does not feel that I am being sympathetic towards the problems afflicting disabled people. I am aware of the work of the Home Office. It has recently assisted the Susie Lamplugh Trust in the production of a consultative document on personal safety for disabled people and a leaflet entitled Out and About, which gives specific advice to disabled people on how to keep safe when travelling around. There are other areas in which the Home Office has provided information. In fact, there is a Home Office booklet entitled Your Practical Guide to Crime Prevention, which covers areas of safety at home and travelling about.