In the run up to national anti-bullying week (17 – 21 November 2014), leading learning disability charity Brandon Trust is issuing advice to people with learning disabilities, their friends, families and support workers about how to identify and deal with bullying.
Government figures show that in 2012/13 the police recorded 1,841 disability hate crimes, a 5% increase on the previous year, when 1,757 incidents were recorded. 
But Brandon Trust, which runs free training sessions on bullying for people with learning disabilities and the professionals who support them, warns that the vast majority of bullying or hate crime against disabled people goes unreported. Therefore the actual number of instances of bullying against people with disabilities is likely to be much higher.
Estimates published in the same government report put the real figure at over 62,000 disability motivated hate crimes per year. One of the reasons so much bullying or hate crime against disabled people is not reported is because it’s often not identified. For many people with learning disabilities unfortunately ‘it’s just part of life.’
However bullying is a form of hate crime, defined as a crime motivated by hostility or prejudice against a person because of a personal characteristic – in this case disability. As such, anyone convicted of a hate crime can receive a tougher sentence.
Examples of bullying include name calling or bad gestures, physical attacks, threats, harassment, humiliation or intimidation. Nasty letters, leaflets or posters, offensive emails, text messages, phone calls or social media posts also all constitute hate crime, as does damage to property, including graffiti. Finally ‘mate crime’, where a person is befriended and then exploited, either physically, socially, financially or sexually, is also a serious issue for people with learning disabilities.
Lucy Hurst-Brown, chief executive of Brandon Trust, says:
“As if bullying against disabled people isn’t bad enough … one of the most alarming things we see is just how many of the people we support accept bullying as part of life. Even with shocking cases that hit the media, like the tragic story of Fiona Pilkington who took her own life and that of her disabled daughter following years of abuse from local youths, the majority of cases go unreported.
“That’s why we’re issuing practical advice to help people identify and deal with bullying and to encourage them to report it. Together we will work to stamp out this appalling abuse and make our communities safer for everyone.”
Brandon Trust’s guidelines on staying safe include:
1) Tell someone you trust if you are being bullied, this could be a support worker, a good friend, a family member, a youth worker, someone else that you work or live with or an organisation (such as Bristol Hate Crime Service)
2) If you are being bullied, keep a diary of events, log the date, time, who was involved and as much information as you can remember. Brandon Trust can provide Easy English logging diaries
3) Put useful numbers in your mobile –a local taxi firm, police non-emergency (101) and any local Hate Crime Service or helplines
4) In an emergency always call 999
5) Avoid giving out personal information such as your address and never disclose passwords or pin numbers to anyone
6) Beware of friends who always ask to borrow money or possessions, and ask yourself if these are real friends
7) Find out where your local ‘Safe Places’ are for when you’re out and about. These are places such as libraries, shops, cafes and council buildings that have signed up to the national Safe Places scheme
Brandon Trust offers bespoke training, events and workshops on bullying and hate crime for organisations and individuals. For further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org