Wendy, who has a learning disability, was recently the victim of hate crime. While going to the local post office she was attacked by a young man who pushed her to the ground, kicked her and called her ‘a retard’. In the same week, Paul, who is autistic, was spat at and slapped by a group of teenagers who carried on sneering and swearing at him.

Talking to members of our group, it is clear that these are familiar experiences for people with a wide range of disabilities who seem to be regarded as an easy target for bullies and casual thugs. It also seems that such incidents have become more common since the Covid pandemic. Some of our younger people report abuse and harassment on social media, particularly in online dating forums.

A recent Mencap survey reveals that 56% of people with learning disabilities in London have experienced hostility, aggression or violence over the past 12 months. The learning disabled population is 1.5 million. It is well known that many hate crime incidents are not reported. Nevertheless the reporting figures for Haringey are shocking. In 2022-23 only eight such cases have been notified to the police in Haringey, suggesting that the vast majority of hate crimes against people with learning disabilities in our area go unreported. Haringey’s figures are the lowest of any London borough. In the neighbouring borough of Islington, for example, there were 49 incident reports.

A key difference between Haringey and Islington in relation to these crimes is the existence in Islington of an active local learning disability partnership board. Well-supported by the council and including experienced peer advocates, this forum provides a safe space within which members can report incidents of abuse and appropriate action can be initiated. Such partnership boards were promoted in the national ‘Valuing People’ programme some 20 years ago but in many areas, including Haringey, fell into decline in the years of austerity. The problem of hate crime confirms that we need a functioning partnership board in Haringey.

(Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.)

Mary Langan is chair of Haringey Severe and Complex Autism and Learning disabilities Reference Group (SCALD).