Disabled children almost twice as likely to be the target of crime

Published: 06 Sep 2016

Disabled children are almost twice as likely to be victims of crime as non-disabled children, according to a new report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The Commission’s research found that 22% of disabled young people in England and Wales aged 10 to 15 had been the victim of crime in the previous 12 months, compared to 12% of non-disabled young people of the same age.

Equality and Human Rights Commission Chair David Isaac has called the findings 'a wake-up call', which brings into question our assumptions on the legacy of the London Paralympic Games. 

David Isaac said:

“This report asks us to face some hard truths. After the huge success of the Paralympic Games, young disabled people were looking forward to a far brighter future than any previous generation. These findings are a wake-up call that there is still much more that needs to change. We cannot hope to create a more inclusive society for future generations while disabled children continue to live in a climate of fear of victimisation.”

The report also found that people with mental health issues and social or behavioural impairments also experienced high levels of crime.

For people aged 16 and over with social or behavioural impairments, such as autism, attention deficit disorder or Asperger's syndrome, 35% had been the victim of a crime in the previous year, as had 30% of people with mental health conditions, such as depression.

David Isaac added:

“People with mental illnesses and social or behavioural impairments experience some of the greatest misunderstanding and mistrust in society. In spite of progress on perceptions towards people with ‘visible’ disabilities, hostility towards mental health issues remain widespread.

“What our research today confirms is that, in contrast to the commonly held prejudice linking criminality to poor mental health, people with mental illnesses are in fact more likely than average to be a victim of a crime.”

Disabled people are also significantly more likely to worry about crime than non-disabled people, including those with so-called ‘hidden’ disabilities. Half of people with ‘social or behavioural’ impairments, impairments that affect ‘memory’ or relate to ‘learning, understanding or concentrating’ were found to worry about being the victim of crime.

Disabled adults in England and Wales experienced approximately 56,000 incidents of disability hate crime per year during the period 2011 to 2014. However, reporting of disability hate crime is higher than other criminal incidents. Half (52%) of disability hate crime incidents during the recorded period were reported to the police, compared to only 38% of incidents that were not hate crimes. Six in ten people who had contact with the police following a disability hate crime incident said they were satisfied with police handling of the matter.

Mind’s Policy and Campaigns Manager, Geoff Heyes, said:

“People with mental health problems still face stigma and discrimination, even at the hands of those meant to support them. Not only does living with a mental health problem make you more likely to be a victim of crime, but research from Victim Support and Mind has also found that too often, victims with a history of mental health problems are dismissed, not believed, or even blamed.

“We welcome this important research, and are pleased to see that reporting of disability hate crimes has increased, perhaps because police, commissioners, healthcare staff, support agencies, local and national government are better working together to remove the barriers victims might face in coming forward to report a crime.”

Ruth Owen, Whizz-Kidz Chief Executive, said:

“There are two reasons that this report is so alarming; first that disabled people are at a greater risk of crime at all, and second that young disabled people fear becoming victims of crime even more than their peers. That young disabled people’s lives should be blighted by the fear – and reality – of criminal activity is alarming and distressing.

“This report shines a much-needed light on the reality for many disabled people; we hope that its damning findings lead to a better deal for disabled people who – just like everyone else – deserve a life free from becoming a victim of crime.”

Notes to editors

Disability hate crime is defined as 'any criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice based on a person’s disability or perceived disability'.

Press contact details

For more press information contact the Commission's media office on:

0161 829 8102