Thank you to everyone who took part in Hate Crime Awareness Week 2017
As part of our work with local partners to raise awareness of Hate Crime and increasing support to address hate crime, our staff and volunteers took part in Hate Crime Awareness Week in October. We travelled around the borough with the police Reassurance Bus and some of their Safer Neighbourhood teams. We hung out with Victim Support and our CEO spoke at the launch of the week (you can read the full speech below). Thank you to everyone who took leaflets, stopped and talked to us, and to everyone who filled in our survey about how to support people to report hate crime.
Here is a reminder of where you can make a report or get help and support
To find out more about our work, which is funded by MOPAC, take a look at our website http://www.mertoncil.org.uk/services/hate-crime/
What our CEO said at the Launch of Hate Crime Awareness Week 2017
“When I was younger, it happened on a fairly regular basis. Sometimes my impairment makes it so I am unfit and cannot fight back. I always envisaged that I would not cry or show weakness. I had to take the beatings and learn how to take it. My speech makes people assume I am stupid. At best this means I am ignored, disregarded and not believed. I learned how to go into my shell as a defence.”
Those are the words of just one of the local disabled people we spoke to about their experiences of hate crime. My name is Lyla, Chair of the Merton Hate Crime Strategy Group and I work at Merton CIL. We provide support to local Disabled People across the full spectrum of disability. Originally this was support across benefits, housing, community care, but our members and service users told us that hate crime was an issue. When we looked into it, there were almost no reports being made to the police. There was no hate crime strategy, it was an invisible issue. It is to the credit of the Council, in particular the Safer Merton team and Overview and Scrutiny Commission, that our concerns were taken seriously. We now have a strategy, and we have worked together with police and community partners to raise the issues and put together a schedule of events for Hate Crime Awareness Week.
But we still have so far to go. Our research showed 500 hate crimes against Disabled People in Merton every year. Only 2% are being reported. These can range from lower level incidents like bullying and hate speech - words like spastic and retard always cause alarm bells - right through to outing, malicious complaints, damaging property, targeting disability equipment, and physical violence. We’ve seen all of these in our work. Nationally, there are cases of what started as low level incidents escalating into murder. In our research, half of the Disabled People we spoke to had been bullied or hurt in the past year. It has to stop – we all have a responsibility to call out hate when we see it. Professionals must consider whether a report of Anti-Social Behaviour is also Hate. They should consider whether safeguarding cases are also Hate. Professionals must make sure these reports get to the police.
We have a responsibility to identify and call out environments which enable hate too. When our local press allows hateful comments, under the guise of freedom of speech, we need to call it out. When we see hate and conflict being designed into our services - like making the wheelchair space on a bus to small to also accommodate a buggy - we need to call it out. When we see regeneration plans with not enough parking, we know that it is going to cause conflict and disputes over disabled parking; we need to call it out. And when we see care services being cut and the support people need to stay safe taken away; we need to call it out. Ultimately, people want the hate to stop. We want to feel safe.
To thank you for all the hard work done by all our partners, colleagues, friends to pull together Hate Crime Awareness Week Activities. Let’s keep going. Don’t stop. Let’s press our elected representatives for even more support, greater commitment and resources, and support to design out hate.
I started with a quote and I’ll finish with one. “My friend was walking to the doctors using walking sticks. Someone approached her and said:`this is the problem with this country, but don’t worry, we will soon get rid of you, with this government`” We can make that stop.