Mum speaks out about disability hate crime

It’s hate crime awareness week and a BBC programme has investigated crime against disabled children.

The BBC show 5 Live Investigates found that hate crimes against disabled children are rising. The show said: “Police forces across the UK recorded 450 incidents reported last year, up from 181 in 2014-15, 5 live Investigates found [a 150% rise]. The Home Office says the rise was due to better reporting and more victims willing to come forward.” The programme spoke to Bethan Germon, whose 23-month-old daughter Lydia has hydrocephalus, or water on the brain, which causes her head to swell. Lydia also has cerebral palsy and is fed through a tube. Bethan regularly receives negative comments about Lydia and said: “No one knows how to respond to children with disabilities or someone who is just a bit different and that is the biggest problem that we face.” She continued: “[A parent may say to their children when they look at Lydia] ‘that’s none of your business you don’t have to concern yourself with why that child’s different’. “And I think, well actually, if you did concern yourself with why that child is different maybe other comments could stop.” Bethan said people have even said they wish Lydia was dead – it is clear they don’t consider Lydia’s personality. Bethan said: “Lydia really enjoys life. She just loves being at home; she loves being with her sister; she loves being with us. “Where there is life there is hope for us. We’ve chucked everything at her. She goes to physiotherapy a couple of times a week and she works exceptionally hard. She’s got an amazing personality, which has really been unlocked by her sister. Her sister is really amazing with her.” The programme also spoke to Amanda Batten from the Disabled Children’s Partnership (DCP) about the problem. She said: “Unfortunately we know that these stories aren’t uncommon and I think it’s really important not to underestimate the impact that those sorts of comments and negative behaviour can have on families. “We work with a lot of families and we see their confidence impacted by that sort of experience, quite naturally, and it can lead to those families feeling quite reluctant to go out and do ordinary things and that, in turn, can make them end up being quite isolated and disconnected from their communities.” DCP carried out research with over more than 2,500 families and Amanda continued: “We commissioned a poll this summer and nearly 80% told us that they had experienced offensive comments to them and their child and that’s both face-to-face and social media. “And for me the most alarming figure in that survey was that nearly 60% of those offensive comments were face-to-face in a public setting.” The DCP is a coalition of 50 charities campaigning to improve support for disabled children, young people and families – you can sign up to their mailing list here. Charities leading the campaign include The Children’s Trust, Mencap and Contact. Find out more about the Disabled Children's Partnership. The BBC programme also spoke to law firm Irwin Mitchell about the definition of a hate crime; parents and children who have been affected by hate crime; and the charity Contact, which runs a helpline for families with disabled children.
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