Hate crime speech

Speech by Maria Miller MP.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Rt Hon Maria Miller MP


Hate crime in all its forms is intolerable.

It perpetuates segregation and creates fear.

It has no place in our society.

Whether it is verbal abuse from children on street corners.

Mental persecution by those who are meant to provide care.

Or physical attacks carried out by callous bullies.

We will not tolerate it.

Today we launch guidance to help disabled people, their representative organisations and the non-disabled population deal with hate crime.

It helps people recognise when it is happening.

And to understand what they can do about it.  

We know that disability hate crime is enormously under-reported - just 1,569 cases were reported in 2010, yet some organisations estimate half of all disabled people have experienced hate crime at some point in their lives.

Just yesterday the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign released results of a survey of 400 young disabled people which found the majority are failing to report hate crime as they fear it won’t be taken seriously - even though reported hate crimes have increased by 20 per cent in 2009-10 - there is clearly still much more to do.

This Government made a commitment in the Coalition Agreement to promote better recording of disability hate crime.

The first step was to improve the way police forces collect and record data on disability hate crime.

To ensure the information was centrally collated so we had accurate information on the depth of the problem. The next step is to encourage disabled people to report crimes -so the data gives us the full picture.

This guidance is very much a part of that next step.

We are also developing a new cross government hate crime action plan that will capture the breadth of current and emerging issues across all forms of hate crime, including that fuelled by hatred towards disabled people. We expect to publish the new action plan shortly.

We know that there is a real lack of understanding about what constitutes disability hate crime.

And that the current system for reporting these crimes has not been good enough.

It hasn’t always been accessible.

Disabled people have been understandably concerned that there would be reprisals if they took reported this criminal activity.

This guidance helps deal with some of these fears.

It includes advice for disabled people to enable them to recognise hate crime and provides reassurance that these crimes are taken seriously.

There is also guidance for non-disabled people providing information on what constitutes hate crime and what they can do if they witness disability hate crime.

Finally, there is guidance for disabled people’s organisations, providing information on how to set up third party reporting sites and to support people to take action if they have been a victim of hate crime.

This last aspect is crucial - disabled people’s organisations can provide a safe environment for people to report hate crime in cases where many would not have previously considered going to the police.

Today’s publication deliberately has three distinct sections to provide tailored support to different groups to help tackle hate crime as it occurs.

But it is also very deliberately launched today as a single package of guidance.

Disability hate crime is about singling someone out - it’s about segregation.

The way we combat it is by standing together, disabled people, non-disabled people and their organisations to say - “this is not acceptable” - and the guidance we are launching today does just that, drawing those groups together.

It includes practical suggestions about where to go for support if you experience, or witness, disability hate crime.

I have seen first hand how positive, practical action and people coming together can make a real difference to reporting and ultimately tackling hate crime against disabled people.

The Blackpool Centre for Independent Living’s Disability First project is a scheme which encourages disabled people to report acts of disability hate crime and supports them to take their report to the local police force.

When I visited I met those working in partnership with local police forces. The project has taken 36 reports of disability hate incidents in Blackpool in three months - 12 of which have been reported to the police as a crime.

This compares to the 55 reports of disability hate crime across the entire Lancashire constabulary for the whole of last year.

And it is practical and emotional support that disabled people need when dealing with hate crime.

This is why this guidance is so important because it informs people when they should ask for help and where they can go.

It provides a much more solid foundation for the reporting and ultimately successful prosecution of disability hate crime.

Much of this work is about changing attitudes.

You may find it shocking that public perceptions research revealed that one in six people still feel discomfort and awkwardness around disabled people.

For many people this awkwardness stems from not knowing many disabled people at work or socially.

This segregation is the real barrier to equal participation in society.

We have come a long way since the introduction of the Disabled Person’s Act 40 years ago. It was the first piece of legislation, not just in the UK but in the world, to recognise the rights of disabled people.

Although we can use such legislation to change behaviours, changing attitudes is difficult and takes place over a long period of time.

Living and working with disabled people plays a major role in promoting positive attitudes and this is why the participation of disabled people in public life is so important.

We know that living and working together, non-disabled people and disabled people in everyday life and at work in mainstream jobs - the same as everyone else - plays a major role in promoting positive attitudes. 

That is why I asked Liz Sayce to look at how we can use the protected budget for disability employment services to get thousands more disabled people into mainstream employment.  We are currently looking at all of Liz’s  recommendations.

There are things we can do to improve disabled people’s participation in education, employment, leisure and social activities.

The role of society should be to bring people together, not to segregate. To inspire people, whether disabled or not, to be part of a cohesive society.

Government is responsible for setting the public agenda and has an important role to play in driving change.

I know there has been a lot said about negative media reporting of disabled people, particularly those claiming benefits.

I want to make it clear that we do not condone and do not encourage that kind of reporting.

This Government knows that it’s the current welfare system itself which is at fault and has trapped many people into a spiral of welfare dependency.

That is why we are making such a radical overhaul of the benefits system to restore integrity.

But this is a dual approach, On the one hand welfare reform will deliver a more sophisticated, responsive, accurate benefit system that people genuinely feel supports those in need.

This will eradicate some of the negativity currently filling some of our newspaper pages.

On the other hand we are currently working on a new disability strategy which will move this debate on to the positive action we can take to improve disabled people’s participation.

The really important thing about this document is that it will be the result of real co-production.

We are not only consulting, we’re working with disabled people in discussions about what a clear strategy for equality for disabled people should look like.

Of course - real co-production means we don’t always agree - that is the reality of this approach - disabled people are not a homogenous group, they do not all share the same barriers to accessibility, or the same views on how to overcome them.

But we’ve had a lot of thoughtful contributions and we are slowly establishing a consensus - but it takes time.

We are hoping to publish in the Spring and my expectation is that we will develop a strategy that is as practical and as grounded in disabled people’s lives as the guidance published today.

And by combining our efforts we will really make a difference to disabled people’s lives.

Published 22 February 2012