Disability hate crime – is ‘benefit scrounger’ abuse to blame?

Amid concerns that disability hate crime is being fuelled by government rhetoric over benefit ‘scroungers’, a newspaper has discovered that only a very small proportion of disability hate crimes are actually reported to the police.

Official Home Office estimates put the number of disability hate crimes at 65,000 per year, and campaigners say the figure could be as high as 100,000. But, according to figures obtained by the Guardian as a result of freedom of information requests, in 2011 fewer than 2,000 such crimes were actually reported to police forces in England and Wales; of those, only 523 resulted in a conviction.

A recent survey for the disability charity Scope found that almost half (46 per cent) of disabled people reported public attitudes towards them worsening over the previous year, with 83 per cent saying coverage about ‘benefits scroungers’ can negatively affect attitudes. Disabled people reported being increasingly confronted by strangers questioning their right to benefits.

Scope draws attention to the fact that these findings coincide with government attempts to focus the welfare debate on benefit fraud in a bid to make the case for radical reform. It highlights statements such as those by employment minister Chris Grayling, who has said: ‘We now know very clearly that the vast majority of new claimants for sickness benefits are in fact able to return to work’ – despite official statistics showing only a tiny minority of claims to be fraudulent.

SourceThe Guardian, 14 August 2012
LinksGuardian report | Scope press release

Tweet this page