Tackling hate crime against people with learning disabilities
Mencap were planning to launch a three year Stand by Me campaign the aim of which in the first year was to encourage the police to do more to tackle hate crimes against people with learning disabilities. Mencap were keen to take an evidence based approach to campaigning and whereas they felt they had some knowledge of the issues that make tackling hate crime difficult, they knew further research was needed in order for the campaign to be received positively by the public and the police. They felt that having an independent organisation such as OPM conduct the research would lend their campaign greater credibility.
Mencap were initially keen to work specifically with us on this project because they had been impressed by our work on disabled people’s experiences of targeted violence and hostility for the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which helped trigger a Formal Inquiry.
What we did
Mencap initially wanted to run a large scale survey with all police services. However, we felt that given their aims and objectives a smaller, more in-depth qualitative study with a sample of police services would be more suitable and a better use of their resources, and they were happy to follow our lead. We therefore conducted research with 14 police services across England.
We reviewed key documents from each police service, including hate crime strategies and procedures for reporting and recording hate crime. We also conducted in-depth interviews with representatives from each police service which asked them to reflect on the incidence of hate crime against disabled people, the services’ structural and organisational set-up for tackling disability hate crime and implementation and delivery ‘on the ground’.
We also conducted one focus group with people with a learning disability where participants reflected on their personal experiences of reporting hate crime and key expectations in terms of how victims should be treated and hate crime tackled. Mencap were very happy with the report we produced, in particular the rich and varied evidence that had been captured from a small sample. We also helped disseminate the research by writing a series of blogs during Learning Disability week and an article for Learning Disability Today.
Mencap used the final output from the research to launch the Stand by Me campaign which resulted in 22 out of 43 police services in England and Wales ‘signing up’ to the changes suggested, which for Mencap was a resounding success. Many others are also in the process of signing up. They also received good feedback from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) about the balanced evidence presented in the report and this has led to an ongoing relationship and further conversations about how police services can improve their practice.
The research has also raised Mencap’s profile in the sector and has given them the evidence base they needed to play a role in influencing change. For example, they are now part of an advisory group for the Metropolitan Police and are in discussions with the EHRC about how they can better support their work.