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Barnet Post

Identifying online threats isn’t always easy

Barnet Mencap are supporting those with learning disabilities to report hate crimes

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(Credit: Barnet Mencap)
By Reshma Hirani 16 February 2022

Barnet Mencap’s hate crime reporting project focuses on supporting people with learning disabilities and autism to report hate crimes to the Police. We have also received training from the charity Small Steps on online radicalisation and have found that people with disabilities who spend a lot of time online could be at risk. Barnet Mencap’s hate crime reporting project focuses on supporting people with learning disabilities and autism to report hate crimes to the Police. We have also received training from the charity Small Steps on online radicalisation and have found that people with disabilities who spend a lot of time online could be at risk. 

In 2021 the Metropolitan Police recorded 762 racist and religious hate crimes in the borough of Barnet, but only 29 disability hate crimes in the same period. Despite increases in police recorded hate crime (which have been driven by improvements in crime recording and better identification of what constitutes a hate crime), disability hate crime reporting figures remain low. In 2021 the Metropolitan Police recorded 762 racist and religious hate crimes in the borough of Barnet, but only 29 disability hate crimes in the same period. Despite increases in police recorded hate crime (which have been driven by improvements in crime recording and better identification of what constitutes a hate crime), disability hate crime reporting figures remain low. 

Research shows that nine out of ten people with disability and/ or mental health conditions have witnessed and/or experienced hate crimes. During the pandemic, we saw a rise in online hate crime, including the hijacking of Zoom calls, video conferences and live-streamed religious or community services. There was also a reported rise in cyber abuse via social media platforms and gaming forums. Research shows that nine out of ten people with disability and/ or mental health conditions have witnessed and/or experienced hate crimes. During the pandemic, we saw a rise in online hate crime, including the hijacking of Zoom calls, video conferences and live-streamed religious or community services. There was also a reported rise in cyber abuse via social media platforms and gaming forums. 

People with learning disabilities and autism are more at risk of being targeted because they are seen by perpetrators as vulnerable. Social isolation, caused by a number of factors including anxiety or fear of integrating within a community, where they may encounter hate crime, can then lead to disabled people spending increased time online, thus making them more accessible to perpetrators of cyber-abuse. People with learning disabilities and autism are more at risk of being targeted because they are seen by perpetrators as vulnerable. Social isolation, caused by a number of factors including anxiety or fear of integrating within a community, where they may encounter hate crime, can then lead to disabled people spending increased time online, thus making them more accessible to perpetrators of cyber-abuse. 

The workshops run by Small Steps have enabled our staff to learn about the signs of radicalisation and the risk of being contacted and engaged via gaming forums and online platforms. We have learnt that extremists will exploit vulnerable individuals desire to belong and offer easy solutions to the problems in the world. The workshops run by Small Steps have enabled our staff to learn about the signs of radicalisation and the risk of being contacted and engaged via gaming forums and online platforms. We have learnt that extremists will exploit vulnerable individuals desire to belong and offer easy solutions to the problems in the world. 

Our continued partnerships with the Barnet Council Prevent team and with Small Steps aim to prevent people with learning disabilities and autism from becoming targets of extremism. Our continued partnerships with the Barnet Council Prevent team and with Small Steps aim to prevent people with learning disabilities and autism from becoming targets of extremism. 

At the session with Small Steps, staff and carers helped clients to understand how to stay safe while using the internet by reporting any unwanted or unknown communications to their families or carers. At the session with Small Steps, staff and carers helped clients to understand how to stay safe while using the internet by reporting any unwanted or unknown communications to their families or carers. 

We will continue to raise awareness with the intention of ensuring that everyone in our community is safe from hate crime and extremism. We will continue to raise awareness with the intention of ensuring that everyone in our community is safe from hate crime and extremism.