Children's Rights - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents


Memorandum submitted by Mencap

1.  INTRODUCTION

  1.1  Mencap welcomes the opportunity to contribute to this inquiry.

1.2  Mencap is the leading charity working with children and adults with a learning disability, their parents and carers. We are fighting for a world where everyone with a learning disability has an equal right to choice, opportunity and respect, with the support they need.

1.3  Mencap is concerned that children and young people with a learning disability have not secured the fundamental right to feel safe in their schools or local community. Research shows that the incidence of bullying of children and young people with a learning disability is extremely high.[368]

  1.4  Mencap's view is that all children with a learning disability have a right to feel safe. We support the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2008[369] that the UK Government and devolved administrations must prioritise the safeguarding of disabled children.

  1.5  Mencap wants the Government to take action to ensure that children with a learning disability secure their fundamental right to feel safe.

2.  BULLYING OF CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE WITH A LEARNING DISABILITY

  2.1  In 2007, Mencap undertook a survey of 507 children and young people with a learning disability aged eight to 19 years. The workshops were held in 46 schools across England, Wales and Northern Ireland to find out more about their experiences of bullying in and out of school. This is the first time that so many children and young people with a learning disability have been asked about their experiences of bullying in the UK.

2.2  The results of the survey showed that 8 out of 10 children with a learning disability had been bullied.[370] This is twice as likely as for other children.[371]

  2.3  The research revealed that children with a learning disability are bullied wherever they go; not just in school but in the street, the park and on public transport. eight out of 10 children with a learning disability said they were scared to go out because of bullying.

  2.4  Six out of 10 children with a learning disability said they had been physically hurt by bullies, in many cases this could be classified as assault or abuse "I had to be taken to hospital to have 18 stitches in my forehead."

  2.5  Seven out of 10 children and young people with a learning disability are verbally abused.

  2.6  Four out of 10 children with a learning disability said the bullying didn't stop even when they told someone. One child told Mencap "I told my teachers at school and they said I had special needs so I should get used to it as I would get bullied all my life."

  2.7  Mencap's research showed that over half of the children with a learning disability who had been bullied stopped going to the places where the bullying happened. This increased their isolation and restricted their opportunities.

  2.8Case Study: Ben is a young man aged 15 with a learning disability who experienced persistent bullying both verbal and physical. This happened both in and out of school. The ongoing bullying left Ben terrified to go outside. Having previously been an independent young man, he began to have recurring nightmares and refused to leave the house. Whenever he heard children's voices outside he would cower and beg his mum not to let them near him. Last year Ben and his Mum moved to a new home in a different area. Ben, now aged 19, is receiving counselling to help him deal with the ongoing distress that the bullying has caused.

  2.9  The effects of disablist bullying are pronounced and in many cases it is preventing children with a learning disability from living full and happy lives. Children with a learning disability do not feel safe in school or their local communities.

3.  PREVENTING AND TACKLING BULLYING OF CHILDREN WITH A LEARNING DISABILITY

  3.1  Mencap research on Disability Equality Schemes shows that promoting disability equality and eliminating discrimination and harassment is not a priority for schools.[372]

3.2  The Disability Discrimination Act (2005) places a new duty on schools to show how they are promoting disability equality. This duty is a key lever in combating bullying and promoting well-being so that children feel safe in school.

  3.3  Mencap has found that only 1 in 40 schools have a Disability Equality Scheme.

  3.4  Mencap has found evidence of confusion over legal obligations with the vast majority of Disability Equality Schemes produced by schools being in fact Accessibility Plans.

  3.5  Mencap's contact with schools shows that they are not clear of their responsibilities. The requirement to promote disability is not being taken as seriously as the parallel duty to promote racial equality.

4.  MENCAP'S RECOMMENDATIONS

  4.1  Mencap wants the Government to take action to ensure that children with a learning disability secure their fundamental right to feel safe.

4.2  Mencap recommends that in accordance with the 2008 report of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Government must prioritise the safeguarding of disabled children and ensure that a robust national strategy is in place.

  4.3  Mencap recommends that the Government must ensure that schools and local authorities comply with the law by promoting disability equality and taking action to eliminate harassment, bullying and discrimination.

  4.4  Mencap recommends that within the forthcoming Equality Bill, the Disability Equality Duty on public authorities retains its status and is not weakened by the removal of any of the strands currently on the face of the legislation or by a more generalised equality duty.

  4.5  Mencap recommends that Ofsted makes disability equality a priority when inspecting schools and local authorities and is robust in its assessment of how local authorities are contributing to the well-being of disabled children.

February 2009











368   Mencap (2007) Bullying Wrecks Lives: the experiences of children and young people with a learning disabilityBack

369   Committee on the Rights of the Child (2008) Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under Article 44 of the Convention: Concluding Observations. Back

370   Mencap 2007 Bullying Wrecks Lives: the experiences of children and young people with a learning disabilityBack

371   Department for Education and Skills 2003, Tackling Bullying: Listening to the views of children and young people in schoolsBack

372   Mencap (2008) Just not a Priority: schools and disability equalityBack


 
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