December 9 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
A Euro MP wants name-calling and intimidation of disabled people to be classified as a hate crime.
Essex MEP, Richard Howitt, made the call after visiting Colchester charity, Gateway, which is affiliated to the national organisation for people with a learning disability, Mencap.
Mr Howitt, who dropped by the centre last week, was there to hear the views of women with disabilities, in particular. His findings will feed directly into a new initiative in Europe aimed at raising awareness of the challenges they face.
The Labour MEP is vice chair of the European Parliament All Party Group on Disability and is leading the development of the new ‘Women with disabilities’ policy in the next few weeks.
He said: “I wanted to hear directly from my constituents about what issues they regard as most important, as Europe takes a fresh look at equal rights for all people with disability, and women in particular.
“One of the key issues is that women with learning disabilities are more likely to be subject to physical and psychological abuse.
I heard from people that have suffered name-calling, as well as physical intimidation and one had even had stones thrown at her.
“Just as we now recognise the damage bullying can do to young people, so I would like to see the same attention on the problems faced by women with disabilities.
“Essex Police have made a lot of progess in this area and are ahead of many other forces, and I welcome the fact they have signed up to Mencap’s campaign to improve how the police tackle disability hate crime.”
Mr Howitt also said the family carers of people with disabilities are struggling to cope as funding support from local authorities had been cut.
He added: “I have some sympathy with local authorities who have had to make big cuts but we also have to recognise the impact it has on carers’ lives.
“There’s a danger fewer carers will be able to cope and we wil see more people sent to instituions in the future.”
Gateway’s administrator Mandy Hudson said the charity had recently started offering crisis advocacy and advice on welfare rights because of the pressure carers of people with disabilities found themselves under.