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Lord Adebowale: I support the amendments tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Carter and Lord Rix, which I believe will have the support of many other noble Lords. I first declare an interest as the chief executive of Turning Point, a charity which supports people with learning disabilities and those with mental health problems. Turning Point is also a member of the New Spirit Coalition, which has been campaigning on the Bill.
I support the amendments tabled by the noble Lords. This is because at the moment the Bill does not do enough to require public bodies proactively to tackle harassment and hate crimes against disabled
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people or to promote positive attitudes towards disabled people. That is clear when one reads and thinks through the Bill. We know from the many campaigns through the years on race and disability that it is not enough to be reactive in making law on civil rights; we have to be proactive in making such laws.
The recent report called Hidden Lives from Turning Point, my own organisation, examines the issue more deeply. It found that despite the principles and targets in Valuing People, the Human Rights Act and criminal legislation such as the Criminal Justice Act, people with a learning disability, for example, still suffer discrimination.
We also know that discrimination is not isolated to people with a learning disability. The sad fact is that a DRC survey found that a third of disabled people have experienced harassment in public due to their disability, and the Government's strategy unit found that disabled people have a much greater fear of crime than non-disabled people.
I also know from my work at Turning Point that people with mental health problems face terrible stigma. That was highlighted in the Social Exclusion Unit's report about mental health. That is why Hidden Lives recommended the explicit inclusion of a duty to promote good relations in the Bill. I am grateful for the work done to move from that idea to the workable amendments that we have before us today.
The sorts of things that I envisage public bodies will do to fulfil their duties would be simple yet effective ways to challenge attitudes and to tackle incidences of discrimination head on. It may include, for instance, awareness campaigns or work in schools to promote better understanding of disability issues. It would also include making sure that the police and social services work together to ensure that resources are available so people with a learning disability understand what constitutes harassment, are aware of their rights and are confident to speak out. The fact is that many people at present are not clear. One survey found that more than half of people with a learning disability do not know where to go for help if they are harassed or bullied.
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I particularly like the concept of promoting civic participation in the amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Carter. That is something which Turning Point works to enhance for the people we support. I know that many other organisations are working with us in that regard. We have seen at first hand how it can change attitudes. One example is that of a woman called Clara, who has a profound and multiple learning disability, yet is a member of her local neighbourhood watch. She, who is curious by nature and likes hearing about her neighbours' news, enjoys the meetings. But also, her representation at the meeting ensures that the other members have a better understanding of learning disability issues and respect her as an equal part of the group.
However, as the Hidden Lives report found, all too often people with a learning disability are set apart from their communities. Many people with a learning disability do not have friendships outside service settings or participate in wider social networks. For some, the only place they visit during the day is the day centre. That is segregation from people who live in the same street and town, and it isolates people with a learning disability and other disabilities from society and new relationships. That reinforces prejudiced attitudes and limits opportunities and expectations.
Requiring public bodies to promote social inclusion and positive attitudes will challenge this existing culture and ensure opportunities are available to all disabled people. That will help to build cohesive communities where discrimination of disabled people is simply unacceptable and people have the opportunity to maximise their life chances.
Of course, there is a risk that the Government will view these amendments as unnecessary. They may argue that the public sector duty to promote equality in the Bill is sufficient and that it covers and encourages the sorts of activities I have described. But the noble Lords, Lord Carter and Lord Rix, have made a persuasive argument for why that is not the case, and I for one wholeheartedly agree with them. Without a specific duty requiring public bodies to promote positive attitudes and inclusion, the important work of proactively challenging prevailing cultures and attitudes towards disability will simply not be done.
In addition, as Lord Rix has so carefully explained, the duty to eliminate harassment applies to harassment only as defined in the Bill. As I understand it, that would not include the harassment and bullying that people have told me they experience on many occasions. That everyday harassment must be covered by the Bill. We have seen the success that can happen when government, individual and communities place a priority on tackling discrimination. We are succeeding in turning the tide of discrimination in respect of other social groups, including the one to which I belong. These amendments would ensure that the same profile and attention is given to tackling discrimination against disabled people and to promoting inclusion. I
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hope that other noble Lords will join me in supporting the amendments of the noble Lords, Lord Rix and Lord Carter.
I was particularly alarmed to discover, from a whole variety of sources, exactly the extent of harassment that is going on. The DRC, in its attitudes and awareness survey of 2003, said that 22 per cent of disabled respondents said that they had experienced harassment. Mencap's Living in Fear report has already been mentioned. The 2004 survey of disabled people in Scotland, carried out by the DRC in Scotland and Capability Scotland, said that almost half the participants in their survey had experienced verbal abuse, intimidation and/or physical attacks because of their disability. One in five respondents suffered an attack once a week or more. That is horrific.
The Mayor of London's 2003 survey of disabled Londoners, entitled Another Planet?, found that 79 per cent of disabled people reported that they had experienced harassment. According to the same survey, 8 per cent of disabled people fell victim of violent crime in comparison to 4 per cent of non-disabled people. Disabled people were also four times more likely to be assaulted.
The only way in which we can get over this harassment is by proper education and understanding of the needs and realities of being disabled. The noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, spoke at Second Reading of having had a short period of disablement herself, and I took very much to heart what she said. But imagine what it is like for someone like the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, or the noble Baronesses on the other side of the Chamber, who spend the greater part of their lives in wheelchairs. I do not know, because they have not yet told us, whether they have been subject to harassment from time to time. I would most certainly hope not. What we therefore need is for positive attitudes towards disabled people to be promoted. I am delighted that Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 have been tabled, because they are far better than my own amendment, Amendment No. 19, to which I do not now need to speak at all.
I note that, in the Government's original response, they argued that unlike other equality legislation the DDA grants rights only to disabled people, and the draft Bill already introduces a requirement on public authorities to promote equality. However, promoting equality does not go quite far enough, does it? In any case, the DDA does not grant rights only to disabled people; in a few days' time, we will come to an amendment towards the end of the Marshalled List seeking to remove able-bodied people.
I agree with and took particular note of the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, on social inclusion, at Second Reading. I am slightly surprised that the noble
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Lord, Lord Carter, in particular, did not use the words "social inclusion" in his amendment, but it means pretty much the same thing.
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