Move to stop ‘shocking’ disability hate crimes

TACKLING disability hate crime is going to be a priority across the Welsh Government, Cardiff Bay’s Equality Minister has said.

Jane Hutt described disability related harassment and violence as “shocking and unacceptable”, and said everyone had a duty to protect the most vulnerable in society.

The minister was responding to a detailed report by the Assembly’s communities, equality and local government committee on disability related harassment.

The Minister said: “I welcome the report and recommendations on disability related harassment in Wales.

“I fully believe that incidents of disability related harassment, violence and hate crime are shocking and unacceptable.

“We all have a duty to protect the most vulnerable in society and to ensure that disabled people and those with long-term health conditions are able to live a life without fear.

“Although current work has been taken forward through our community cohesion strategy, I want to ensure that a stronger strategic direction to tackle hate crime is made a priority across Government portfolios and with our partners across Wales.”

The AMs’ report makes 10 recommendations for tackling disability hate crime which the Welsh Government has accepted, including developing a strategic framework bringing together the different projects and groups in Wales, and including training for frontline staff; raising awareness of the problem amongst disabled people, and better reporting of incidents with greater consistency across the country.

The report also recommends issuing guidance to councils about sharing information, and tackling “low level” incidents before they escalate into hate-crime.

Swansea Lib Dem councillor and South Wales West AM Peter Black said he welcomed the government’s response to the report. He said the issues of reporting incidents and improving data-sharing were particularly important.

“Many disabled people subject to hate crimes are vulnerable people,” he said. “We need to ensure that information held by doctors, health services, police and social services is shared so that help and assistance can be co-ordinated and effectively delivered.”

Meanwhile both Dyfed-Powys and South Wales police forces have said they are committed to tackling the problem.

A Dyfed-Powys Police spokeswoman said: “We aim to improve the trust and confidence people with disabilities have in the service they get from the police.

“In recent years we have made huge progress in doing this. We have dedicated hate crime support officers, comprehensive training on disabilities is provided to officers, staff and new recruits, and the single equality scheme aims to ensure Dyfed-Powys Police meets its general equality duties, including a duty to eliminate harassment of disabled people that is related to their disabilities.”

South Wales Police inspector Nigel Crates said disability hate crime was “totally unacceptable”, and said the force was committed to reducing the harm it causes to “victims, their families and to the wider community”.