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Loneliness and Cruelty: People with learning disabilities and their experience of harassment, abuse and related crime in the community


There has been a significant shift over the last 30 years away from placing people with learning disabilities in closed residential institutions and towards independent living, supported housing and other community-based accommodation. But the society and the communities in which people have found themselves have also changed significantly over the same period of time, becoming in many ways selfish and unwelcoming - and sometimes unsafe.

Loneliness and Cruelty reports on ground-breaking research working with the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities and practitioners from housing,  care and support, advocacy and police services across the country, supported by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. 67 people with learning disabilities who live in the community were interviewed about their lives. People greatly value their independence and freedom to express themselves in their own space. But a lot of people feel lonely. One in four people interviewed didn’t have a best friend. And almost everyone had experienced some form of harassment, abuse or related crime in the community.  

Loneliness and Cruelty sets out a framework for tackling the problems described that emphasises the importance of developing social capital to address the fundamental and underlying problem of the loneliness and social isolation of people with learning disabilities, as well as continued efforts to improve access to justice and equal rights. The policy and practice of over 1,000 providers of social housing, care and support, criminal justice and other community-based service have been influenced by the report. Read some of their comments here.

Praise for Loneliness and Cruelty

“The Association of Chief Police Officers welcomes the report Loneliness and Cruelty. It emphasises the importance for police services of focussing efforts on improving services for some of the most vulnerable people in British society, to gain their trust and confidence in the criminal justice system.” Alfred Hitchcock, Former Head of Equality, Diversity & Human Rights, Association of Chief Police Officers

“The Loneliness and Cruelty report provides a vivid account of the difficult and harassed lives that many people with learning disabilities live in the community. The Crown Prosecution Service remains committed to prosecuting cases of disability hate crime as effectively as possible.”  Sir Keir Starmer QC, Former Director of Public Prosecutions, Crown Prosecution Service


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