Discussing with police to raise their awareness about intellectual disability

To read on Mencap website:

Note: In the UK, the term of ‘Learning disability’ is used instead of ‘Intellectual disability’.

Tackling mate crime with the police

Anna Olliffe  20/08/2015
Discussing

How would you feel about talking about learning disability to the Police? Mencap’s Young Ambassadors and Communities team have been doing just that to raise awareness about learning disability and the types of situations people can face – such as difficulties reporting mate crime – with some exciting results.

Part of our work in the Communities team at Mencap is to offer learning disability awareness workshops. It’s vital that the Police and other community organisations get the opportunity to understand what a learning disability is, how a learning disability differs from a learning difficulty or a mental health problem, and how to most effectively communicate with someone with a learning disability.

Of course, the best way to learn is by actually spending time with someone with a learning disability – which is why we co-deliver awareness sessions with our Young Ambassadors and other trained volunteers.

They are brilliant presenters who bring the subject to life and offer expert opinions on what people with learning disabilities need and want. Their work is crucial in our goal to change the public’s attitudes so society becomes more equal for people with a learning disability.

Together, we covered more complex issues as well. For example, looking at how to spot the signs of ‘mate crime’ – this is a type of disability hate crime when a person pretends to be someone’s friend in order to manipulate, abuse or even steal from them Anna Olliffe, Regional engagement officer at Mencap

The recent session we ran was with Police Officers and Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) at the Waverley Neighbourhood Team, which are part of Surrey Police. The Young Ambassadors explained that sometimes it’s simple tips and techniques that can really help when working with people with a learning disability.

These things include making sure, if possible, for the police to speak to someone in a quiet environment; and that someone wearing a hi-vis jacket or having a noisy radio can be distracting or upsetting for some people.

Together, we covered more complex issues as well. For example, looking at how to spot the signs of ‘mate crime’ – this is a type of disability hate crime when a person pretends to be someone’s friend in order to manipulate, abuse or even steal from them.

We discussed different scenarios where a hate crime or mate crime has been committed and the role of the police in each situation.

The 22 Police Officers and PCSO’s that we spoke to were brilliant. They asked interesting questions, discussed really complex issues, and made some fantastic points. As a team, we’ve never seen a group of people concentrate so hard when filling in a learning disability awareness survey before!

The high points for me was the feedback we had from the police:

“First of all we should ask the person with a learning disability what they want.”

“Yes, we’re here to prevent crime, but we do more than that. We could support a vulnerable person by getting another agency involved, maybe social services, or community transport.”

“Does everyone here know about Pegasus (a police system that makes it easier for people with disabilities to report crimes)?”

One police officer also said the session was, “really engaging, interesting and informative. It was useful to have the input from the Young Ambassadors.”

We’re really grateful that Surrey Police gave up their time to work with us. We couldn’t have asked for a more engaged audience. I hope it’s the first of many learning disability awareness sessions that we do with Neighbourhood Teams throughout the country.

Are you interested in having learning disability awareness training in your area?

If so, please contact:

Margaret Cook: margaret.cook@mencap.org.uk  (north of England)

Rachel West: rachel.west@mencap.org.uk (west country and east Anglia)

Louise Cripps: louise.cripps@mencap.org.uk (south of England)

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