Home Learning Disabilities & Autism “Walk a mile in our shoes” – new research calls time on learning disability and autism hate crime

“Walk a mile in our shoes” – new research calls time on learning disability and autism hate crime

by Lisa Carr

New research from not-for-profit support provider Dimensions exposes that negative attitudes and behaviours towards people with learning disabilities and autism remain alarmingly present in the UK. In response, it is launching the #NoTimeForHateCrime campaign to reduce instances of hate crime, and to support people who experience or witness it.

The research reveals that only 25% of the public think society is inclusive of people with learning disabilities and autism, and 30% think society has become even less inclusive. A raft of concerning behaviours is identified  a fifth of the public have laughed at someone, called someone names or avoided talking to someone because of their learning disability or autism. Shockingly, 6% of UK adults admit to having physically hurt someone because of their learning disability or autism – equivalent to 3.6 million people[1].

The research also reveals a lack of tolerance for people with learning disabilities or autism. 1 in 6 would feel uncomfortable sitting next to someone on public transport, and 1 in 7 would feel uncomfortable having someone as their neighbour, if they knew had a learning disability or autism.

Unexpectedly, the research reveals younger people tend to have more negative views – indicating that if we don’t take action now, the problem will only get worse. A quarter of adults aged under 35 would feel uncomfortable having someone with learning disabilities as their neighbour (24%), sitting next to them on public transport (26%), or being friends with them (26%). More than 1 in 10 under 35 say they have physically hurt someone because of their learning disability or autism.

Yet with 1 in 4 regretting how they’ve behaved towards someone with a learning disability or autism, the research shows there is a widespread desire to do better. Through #NoTimeForHateCrime, Dimensions is offering a means of being an ally and standing up for people with learning disabilities and autism. This includes providing resources to help people educate themselves about what to do if you witness a hatecrime, and how to report a hate crime, available at www.dimensions-uk.org/notimeforhatecrime

Rachael Dodgson, Chief Executive of Dimensions, says:

“Our research sends a clear message – our society is failing people with learning disabilities and autism. Imagine feeling unsafe every time you leave your home or interact with others – this is the unacceptable reality for many. It’s encouraging that a significant portion of the public are aware that their previous actions have fallen short. #NoTimeForHateCrime aims to unite the nation and help everyone adopt a more understanding and tolerant approach – thereby creating a safer, more inclusive society for all.”

Mark Brookes, Campaigns Advisor at Dimensions, has a learning disability and has experienced hate crimes. Mark says:

“For too long, people with learning disabilities and autism like myself have had to live in fear of being targeted simply because of our disability. When I hear stories of hate crime and abuse, I feel awful and sad. We have to keep pushing and going until this stops. We need to be listened to and taken seriously, and we all have to work together to change people’s attitudes and to support people to report a hate crime. This starts with children and at school, and that’s why we’re also offering free Key Stage 3 teaching materials to help tackle hate crime in the classroom.”

The mother of Andy*, an autistic man with a mild learning disability, recounts his experiences of hate crime:

“The young people who would pull his trousers down in public. The fellow students who, knowing he needs things arranged just so, would delight in rearranging them. The neighbour whose malicious 999 calls led to him being repeatedly stopped, twice by firearms officers, for no reason. The person who attacked him for ‘looking at him funny’. 

“The psychological abuse Andy has suffered over the years has left him needing long term mental health support. It has made him nocturnal – he sleeps in the day and goes out only in the quiet of the night. He’s become terrified of the police. And as for that neighbour – they won; he’s been rehoused.

“What would Andy want from all those who have persecuted him over the years? That’s easy. For them to walk a mile in his shoes. Together, let’s call time on hate crime.”

Dimensions is calling on people to read its resources and to show their support by posting a photo on social media showing their watch or clock and using #NoTimeforHateCrime. Ahead of Anti-Bullying Week on 13th-17th November, it is also offering free Key Stage 3 teaching materials to help tackle learning disability and autism hate crime in the classroom and get ahead of damaging attitudes and behaviours forming.

The research also found that while over half (54%) of the public would feel confident intervening if they witness a hate crime, only 37% believe that if they reported a hate crime, the perpetrator would be charged. This reflects data released last month that showed just 1% of disability hate crime resulted in a charge or CPS referral in 2022/23[2]. Dimensions is therefore backing the call from charities Leonard Cheshire and United Response for the government to reverse its decision to merge an anti-hate crimestrategy into a wider plan to tackle general crime, and instead focus on developing a bespoke hate crimestrategy, in consultation with stakeholders and their families.

To find out more about the campaign visit www.dimensions-uk.org/notimeforhatecrime

  • To read Dimensions’ resources about what to do if you witness a hate crime, click here
  • To read Dimensions’ resources about how to report a hate crime, click here
  • To access Dimensions’ police e-learning course, click here
  • To access Dimensions’ Key Stage 3 teaching resources, click here

*Please note this name has been changed to keep the identity anonymous

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