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By Debbie le Quesne

I challenge you: Watch this programme and don’t be appalled

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Is it me, or am I missing something here? I watched ITV’s Don’t Hate Us: Tonight programme about scarily hardened attitudes towards the disabled and expected a huge media response this morning.

Are there screaming headlines shaming those who bully, persecute, misunderstand and abuse the disabled? No! Is the internet awash with comment on this wonderfully produced programme? No.

Why? Because I fear to be true the comment of one woman interviewed in the documentary, who said “the world is not ready for disabled people.”

Perhaps it’s because it’s a minority issue, or because the key presenter of this piece of television last night was disabled comedienne Francesca Martinez (pictured).

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She was confronting, edgy, cutting and compassionate as she disclosed the fact that as London prepares to host the 2012 Paralympic Games, new figures reveal hate crimes against the disabled are at record levels.

Martinez, who has cerebral palsy, investigated whether a welfare crackdown –which includes reassessing whether people claiming benefits are fit for work –is behind an apparent hardening of public attitudes.

Her findings were heartrending.

Although there were an estimated 65,000 disability hate crimes last year only 2,000 were reported – and just over 500 resulted in a conviction.

And recent reports show that attitudes towards the disabled have worsened over the last year. Resentment towards some of the most vulnerable in our society is deeply worrying and like Martinez I too am concerned what triggers provoke such hatred.

Francesca travelled to the North East to meet Peter Greener and his family. Peter was subjected to a three-month campaign of abuse after a neighbour suspected he was faking his symptoms of disability to claim benefits.

CCTV finally captured his neighbour’s neighbour’s abuse campaign. “Because he thought I was fake, he’s called me a spacker, a cripple, a benefit cheat . . . a scrounger,” he said.

I felt angry, upset and somehow awkwardly impotent to implement change.

Martinez also met journalist and expert in the field of disability hate crime, Kathryn Quarmby, who feared that reporting of disability fraudsters combined with the government’s “anti-scrounger” rhetoric fuels resentment to the genuinely disabled.

The comedienne also visited Rugby to meet Sue Prince and Nikki Reid. Sue’s daughter Gemma Hayter was 27 and had learning difficulties when she was murdered in 2010 by a group of five of her so-called friends – a victim of ‘mate crime’.

I had never heard of ‘mate crime’ – a kind of subset of disability hate crime and it seems to be very specifically something that happens to disabled people, almost all of whom have learning disabilities.

Because of the problem of loneliness these vulnerable souls look for any friends they can possible find.

Initially they are flattered by the attention and often will put up with really quite high degrees of violence, I learned.

The interview with this murder victim’s sister and mother left me crushed. It was so powerful, so achingly sad. CTV footage of the gang who killed Gemma shows them taking her to the place of her death and returning laughing and joking.

Earlier this year, Minister for Disabled People Maria Miller, announced that 1,421 disabled workers would lose their jobs as Government funding for Remploy, a national company specifically employing and empowering the disabled, would cease.

Martinez and the Tonight team asked for just 15 minutes of her time to answer questions. She refused. What a great piece of PR for the coalition!

But the lack of response speaks volumes. It makes government claims on fairness for the disabled and its commitment to them hollow.

Our welfare state, once the model for the world, is in tatters.

If you missed the programme, here’s the link :www.itv.com/itvplayer/video/?Filter=323748

I challenge you not to be moved by its content.

Have a good weekend. Don’t forget to take the waterproofs.

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Written by debbielq

August 24, 2012 at 8:03 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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