Learning disability hate crime victims get new support helpline in Essex

Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, speaking at the Essex Police estates and strat

Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, speaking at the Essex Police estates and strategy review announcement, with Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh. Picture: Su Anderson - Credit: Su Anderson

A helpline to report hate crime against those with learning disabilities has been rolled out in Essex.

The county’s police and crime commissioner Nick Alston has funded the service, run by Stop Hate UK, until November 2016.

It is hoped the specialised support line will help overcome barriers to reporting crime particularly felt by those with learning disabilities, such as a fear of not being believed or finding an accessible service.

One area the helpline hopes to specifically target is so-called “mate crime” or false befriending, in which people with learning disabilities are exploited through false friendship.

Mr Alston said: “The helpline offers direct support and signposting for victims of hate crime as a result of their learning disability.

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“These victims are often very vulnerable members of society that suffer from verbal and physical attacks, ‘mate crime’ and other types of abuse but do not know how to access support, and sometimes don’t realise they have been victims of crime.

“This is an important initiative which I am delighted to support.”

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Rose Simkins, chief executive for Stop Hate UK, added: “Our existing helplines have received increasing numbers of callers over the past few years and we are pleased to have provided support to so many people who have suffered as victims of hate crime because of some aspect of their identity.

“We believe this tailored service for people with learning disabilities in Essex offers a varied range of reporting methods and hope it will empower and facilitate more people to step forward to seek support.”

According to research by the disability charity Mencap, nine out of ten people with a learning disability have been a victim of a hate crime.

The Stop Learning Disability Hate Crime service was launched on October 1, ahead of the National Hate Crime Awareness Week.

The service will provide telephone and advocacy-based information, advice and support to anyone affected by learning disability hate crime in full confidentiality.

It will also provide referrals to the police and other services with the consent of the victim.

To call the helpline dial 0808 802 1155. It is open 24-hours a day, every day of the year, and is free to call from landlines and all mobile phone providers.

Text and chat options are also available at www.stophateuk.org.

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